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Deke Slayton
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Deke Slayton  (1924-1993)

Donald Kent “Deke” Slayton was one of the original “Mercury Seven” astronauts.  Although he was chosen as one of the original seven astronauts in 1959, he was pulled from the Delta 7 mission of 1962 because of an erratic heart rate, and replaced by Scott Carpenter.   Being an accomplished test pilot, and having flown 56 missions in World War II, and a principal fighter bomber in Vietnam, this news came hard.  Shortly after the news of his heart problem, NASA and the Air Force grounded him.   In 1963 he resigned his Air Force commission and worked for NASA in a civilian capacity as head of astronaut selection.  With this new appointment, he was responsible for choosing the crews for the Gemini and Apollo programs, and also deciding who would be the first person on the moon.

Slayton never gave up his desire to go up into space, and after a long medical program, he was restored to full flight status in 1972.  He was selected as docking module pilot for the Apollo-Soyuz Mission.  On July 17, 1975 the American Apollo and the Soviet Union Soyuz spacecrafts joined up in orbit.  Deke Slayton, Thomas Stafford and Vance Brand conducted crew transfers with cosmonauts, Aleksey A. Leonov and Valeriy Kubasov.  At the age of 51, he was the oldest of his time to fly in space.  

He retired in 1982 from NASA and founded a company called Space Services Inc, in Houston.  He told me along with small commercial payloads, he planned on offering a service of sending up human ashes into space.  During our photo session I asked him to think of his favorite place.  He peered up toward space.
   


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