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"Deke" Slayton Space Souvenir

Patch that accompanied "Deke" Slayton on Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, July 15-24, 1975.
(Museum object #1982.432.1)

At 2:50 pm on July 15, 1975, an Apollo spacecraft lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center, bound for its historic rendezvous with the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a collaboration between the United States and the Soviet Union, marked the first time that astronauts from different nations had met in space. Manning the Apollo was a three-man crew consisting of Thomas P. Stafford, Vance D. Brand, and Wisconsin-born astronaut Donald K. "Deke" Slayton.

Slayton presented this commemorative patch to the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1982. It travelled with him aboard the Apollo on his mission, flying more than three million miles through space. The patch visually depicts the docking of the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft and documents the names of the astronauts and cosmonauts who participated in this first international mission.

Deke Slayton (1924-1993) grew up on a farm near Sparta, Wisconsin. As a boy, he dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot. Following graduation from Sparta High School, he joined the United States Air Force, where he served as an instructor and combat pilot during World War II. In 1949, Slayton received a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Minnesota and later returned to the Air Force as a test pilot.

In 1959, NASA selected Slayton to be an astronaut on its Mercury-Atlas 7 mission, but he was later deemed unfit to fly due to an erratic heartbeat. Despite this disappointment, Slayton continued to work for the space program, testing spacecraft and serving as the Director of Flight Crew Operations. In 1972, Slayton was deemed medically eligible to become an astronaut and subsequently served as the docking module pilot for the nine-day Apollo-Soyuz mission. Catching his first view of the earth below him, Slayton reported, “Man, I tell you, this is worth waiting sixteen years for.”

After his historic flight, Slayton continued to work for NASA as a manager of the Space Shuttle approach and landing tests, and mission operations. In 1982 he retired near Houston, Texas to found Space Services, Inc, a rocket and satellite company.

[Sources: Ezell, Edward Clinton and Linda Neuman Ezell. "The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project" (Published as NASA Special Publication-4209 in the NASA History Series, 1978). National Aeronautics and Space Administration at; Mellies, Amanda. "Apollo-Soyuz Test Project" (NASA History Division. October 22, 2004, National Aeronautics and Space Administration at; Rindfleisch, Terry. "Slayton pilots a new enterprise: Sparta native, 65, helps launch space business" (Wisconsin State Journal, April 9, 1989:1c); Wright, Jerry. "Astronaut Bio: Deke Slayton" (Astronaut Biographies. June 1993. Astronaut Office, Flight Crew Operations Directorate, NASA/Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center at slayton.html)].

Posted on July 14, 2005

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