Title: We Have Capture
Author: Thomas Stafford & Michael Cassutt
Release Date: January 17, 2004
Publisher: Smithsonian Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Space/NASA, Memoir
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Tom Stafford, one of the most celebrated astronauts of the Apollo-era, recounts his career in this memoir. He begins with his days at the Air Force and discusses his time as an instructor at Edwards Air Force Base. He then moves onto his time at NASA in the Gemini and Apollo programs, discussing his evolving role as unofficial NASA astronaut ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
There have been many books and memoirs written about America’s race to the moon, and I have read quite a few of them. So, when picking up a new book on the subject, I always wonder what new perspective the book I’m holding will bring to the knowledge I already have on the subject. What will I learn? Sometimes, the answer is disappointing. In rare instances, though, such as with We Have Capture, I am treated to an entirely new perspective on this era in America’s history I have come to know so well.
Tom Stafford was an important astronaut by any measure during the Gemini and Apollo years. But what really made him stand out is his relationship with the Soviet Union – somehow, Stafford fell into the role of unofficial NASA ambassador to the Soviet Union, and the entire memoir is framed through that lens. While Stafford does spend adequate time on his early years, it’s his relationship with the Russians, and how it affected the goals of the space program, that really take center stage in this book.
Stafford was the commander of ASTP – the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a now underrated and almost forgotten part of the Apollo program. After Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt returned to Earth, the last men to walk on the moon as the crew of Apollo 17 (along with Ronald Evans), the focus at NASA began to shift towards the shuttle program. In that interim, though, NASA and the Soviet Union came together in a delicate diplomatic dance to fly ASTP – the first docking of American and Russian vehicles in space, a huge step for peace during the Cold War. Stafford gives the reader fascinating insights into the Russian perspective, as well as demonstrates how hard he worked to make the mission a reality. I really appreciated the focus on this mission, rather than the main Apollo program, because it brought something completely new to the discussion of the history of American spaceflight.
We Have Capture is an incredibly interesting and fresh look at the Gemini/Apollo-era, juxtaposed against the Russian program. Told through the eyes of one of the major players at the time, it’s well-written and engaging; anyone interested in American history, the Cold War, or space should definitely consider picking up this book.