A rarely seen image of one of America’s first astronauts. This diplomatic passport, from the estate of astronaut Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, is part of my personal collection of space flight memorabilia.
Selected in 1959, Slayton was one of the original seven American astronauts. In 1962, following the flight of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission, Slayton was scheduled to pilot America’s second orbital space flight but was removed from active flight status just prior to the launch of this mission due to the detection of a minor heart condition. Many years later Slayton was eventually returned to flight status and, in 1975, he flew as a crew member on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first joint venture of the U.S. and Soviet space programs.
Even though he was grounded from flight during the early part of his NASA career, Slayton became a top manager and key decision maker for the space agency. In this capacity he was extremely influential in shaping the direction of the American space program from the 1960’s through the early 1980’s. As Director of Flight Crew Operations at NASA, Slayton had final authority on the selection of all new astronauts who would enter the corps. Additionally, he had complete control over the assignment of flight crews for every manned space mission during the Gemini and Apollo eras. It was Slayton who selected Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins to fly on the Apollo 11 mission and it was Slayton who made the determination that Armstrong would be the first man to walk on the moon.
Slayton retired from NASA in 1982 and died in 1993 at the age of 69 from complications of a brain tumor.
Another great item from BostonBill / Flickr