Medal carried by astronaut lands in museum

TULSA — A silver medallion made in downtown Tulsa that orbited the moon with Oklahoma astronaut Thomas Stafford will be donated to the Tulsa Air and Space Museum.

 The medallion was made 42 years ago by Jim Ziegler, 84, of F.C. Ziegler Co.

A longtime friend, Forrest “Babe” O’Brien, asked Ziegler to make a medal that Stafford could take into space. The Stafford family had asked O’Brien, their parish priest at St. Eugene Catholic Church in Weatherford, to be with them at the NASA center in Houston during the flight.

O’Brien and Ziegler together designed the silver medal, depicting the orbit around the Earth and moon on one side, and the first verse of the Bible on the other: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” Three copies were made.

Stafford was commander of the Apollo 10 mission in May 1969 that circled the moon in preparation for the Apollo 11 moon landing that would come two months later.

After his mission, Stafford returned all three copies of the medal to O’Brien, who gave one to Ziegler along with a letter from Stafford verifying it had been on the flight.

Ziegler gave the medal to his son Tom, who was confined to a wheelchair with a nerve disorder. When Tom died at age 27, the medal was hung on a wall at the Ziegler home.

Several months ago, the Zieglers decided to give the medal to the museum.

“My wife and I decided the medal needed to be somewhere where people could see it,” he said.

Kim Jones, deputy director/curator of the museum said, “It’s an interesting aspect of the manned space program that involves an Oklahoma astronaut.

“I anticipate it will be up by February,” he said.

Ziegler said Stafford’s brother in Houston has one of the other medals and the third one was stolen from O’Brien, who has since died.

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