Wayne Mattson earned a Bachelor's degree from the Naval Academy early in his Air Force career (there was no Air Force Academy at that time). Later, through the Air Force Institute of Technology, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Wyoming. He studied jet engines, rockets, and space dynamics, and then did some study toward a Master's degree. During that time, he also taught a course in astronomy and celestial navigation. He was assigned to Holloman Air Force Base in 1969.
I worked at Edwards Air Force Base from 1965 to '69. The Society of Experimental Test Pilots had its meeting in Los Angeles during that time. I was on the F-111 test force and our chief test pilot, Bob Parsons, was down at the SETP meeting. Monday morning, the Los Angeles paper had a horrendous headline: "Mission to Venus Possible with F-111, Says Air Force's Chief Test Pilot." Of course, we got a big charge out of that. As soon as we got our hands on Bob Parsons, we said, "What in the devil did you say to the reporter?" He said, "This reporter asked me three questions. 'Where does space begin?' I generally consider space to begin at the point where you would earn an astronaut's rating if you were flying something like the X-15 or you were going up in one of these space capsules." And then they asked him a couple more innocuous questions on the F-111-is it pressurized, can you possibly go into space? "Well, possibly, but it's got to pressurized," he said. We had those things plastered all over his wall. "Mission to Venus Possible." We told him, "You're going to be the first Venus astronaut." The system program office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base thought it was very hilarious, too, fortunately.