Colonel Frank Borman, USAF, commander of the NASA Apollo 8 mission in 1968, and Gemini 7 in 1965, has died at the age of 95. He died from a stroke. He was born Frank Frederick Borman II March 14, 1928 in Gary, Indiana. He grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and died November 7, 2023, in Billings, Montana. In between, he lived a long, full, and useful life, most of which he spent in service to his country.
Col. Gorman earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautic engineering from the U. S. Military Academy in West Point, New York in 1950. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force did not get its own academy until 1954. After advanced flight training with the Air Force, he earned a master’s degree in engineering from CalTech, then returned to West Point as an instructor.
According to a statement released a statement Non ovember 9, Gorman died of a stroke:
“Today we remember one of NASA’s best. Astronaut Frank Borman was a true American hero. Among his many accomplishments, he served as the commander of the Apollo 8 mission, humanity’s first mission around the Moon in 1968.
“His lifelong love for aviation and exploration was only surpassed by his love for his wife Susan.
“Frank began his career as an officer with the U.S. Air Force. His love of flying proved essential through his positions as a fighter pilot, operational pilot, test pilot, and assistant professor. His exceptional experience and expertise led him to be chosen by NASA to join the second group of astronauts.
“In addition to his critical role as commander of the Apollo 8 mission, he is a veteran of Gemini 7, spending 14 days in low-Earth orbit and conducting the first rendezvous in space, coming within a few feet of the Gemini 6 spacecraft.
“Frank continued his passion for aviation after his time with NASA as the CEO of Eastern Airlines.”
“Frank knew the power exploration held in uniting humanity when he said, ‘Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.’ His service to NASA and our nation will undoubtedly fuel the Artemis Generation to reach new cosmic shores.”
Following Senator John Glenn’s death in 2016, Colonel Borman became the oldest living American astronaut. That distinction now passes to his crewmate, Captain Jim Lovell, U.S. Navy (ret.) who is also 95, but eleven days younger.
Col. Borman’s wife, Susan, predeceased him in 2021. He is survived by their two sons, Frederick and Edwin, both of whom graduated from West Point, like their father.
Between Gemini 7 and Apollo 8, Col. Gorman spent nineteen days, twenty-one hours, and thirty-five minutes in space. After the tragedy of Apollo 1, when Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee were killed, Borman was the only astronaut to serve on the nine man accident review board. He was one of five astronauts, along with Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton and James McDivitt, to testify before congressional committees investigating the fatal events of Apollo 1. Borman’s passionate testimony is credited with saving the Apollo program.
In 1969, NASA appointed Frank Borman as official liaison to President Richard M. Nixon. He watched the historic launch with President Nixon in the Oval Office. He advised Nixon on speaking to the astronauts in the world’s most famous long distance phone call. He accompanied Nixon to the U.S.S. Hornet to greet the crew of Apollo 11 on their safe return. Gorman could have flown on Apollo 11. He was invited, but declined the invitation. He had already decided that Apollo 8 would be his last space flight, and he planned to retire in 1970. Having been commissioned in 1950, that made twenty years’ military service, enough to qualify for a pension. In 1970, Colonel Borman retired from both the Air Force and NASA. After his retirement he took a position with Eastern Airlines, eventually becoming CEO of the company.
Col. Borman was not interested in lunar geology or science for science’s sake. He loved flying. He spent over nineteen days in space. He logged 3,600 hours of flying time while in the USAF. “I didn’t care about picking up rocks,” he later told an interviewer, “I wanted to beat the Soviets to the Moon.” In the Sixties many people had similar attitudes. We can’t fault Col. Gorman for being a product of his times. We can, however, thank him for his service, and offer our condolences to his family and friends.
A life well-lived is an example to all of us. In just under a century, Col. Borman witnessed, and helped make a lot of history.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.