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Saturday 20 April 2019

Tarnished man from the moon to marry TV's Anna

By ALISON BOSHOFF

BBC newsreader Anna Ford has spoken of her joy at becoming engaged to Colonel David Scott, a former Nasa astronaut who walked on the moon in 1971,

Ms Ford (56) has been dating the 67-year-old Texan for a year, but kept news of the engagement secret until yesterday.

So secret, in fact, that it came as a surprise even to the colonel's wife of 41 years, Ann, who learned of the news at the family home in California.

And not only is the colonel still very much a married man, he is also far from being the spotless all-American hero that he might seem.

He was disciplined by Nasa for a scam whereby he smuggled commemorative moonwalk stamps to the moon with a view to inflating their value and selling them to fortune-hunters. And this humiliation was followed by accusations of fraud and of selling unauthenticated ``space dust'' at auction.

Yesterday his childhood sweetheart and the mother of his two children said her husband's relationship with the newsreader ``came as a total shock.''

Looking red-eyed and nervous, the small, dark-haired woman said she had split from her husband only two-and-a-half months ago. ``I am very upset,'' said Mrs Scott, who was busy moving home yesterday. She refused to say how long her husband had been in London and whether or not she had met Ms Ford.

Ann Lurton Ott first met Scott when she was three and he was ten. They were married in 1959 and have two children, Tracey Lee (39) and Douglas (36). Mrs Scott wiped tears from behind her spectacles yesterday as she said: ``After 41 years of marriage I'm going to be with my daughter.''

Back in London, the mood was altogether different. ``We are very very happy, thank you,'' said Ms Ford. ``We have not set a date for a wedding yet. We are both too busy at the moment for that.''

The twice-married presenter who read the BBC's One O'Clock News as usual, described her fiancee as ``a lovely, extraordinary man, very learned.''

She said that her two children by second husband, Mark Boxer, , were ``happy'' at the news.

A friend and one-time business partner of Scott, Peter Bloomfield, confirmed that the romance began a year ago.

He said Scott telephoned the newsreader to ask her for a date when his circumstances ``changed'' regarding his marriage.

``David did a lot of work for ITN when the space shuttle was launching back in the late Seventies and early Eighties and that's when they met,'' he said. ``But of course I think at that time they were both taken, both involved with other people. But they renewed contact about a year or so ago.''

Associates of Scott were astonished to hear of the impending marriage. A space expert who has known him for years said: ``I cannot believe it. When I last spoke to him he was happily married with two children.''

Friends of Ms Ford were similarly surprised. ``Most people did not even know that she had a boyfriend,'' one said. ``She is extremely private and has kept this close to her chest.''

The relationship, according to Ms Ford, began a year ago when they met again in London, where Scott has business interests. For the past few years he has commuted between Britain and America.

Last night, he was abroad on business and could not be contacted.

Scott has a colourful history which includes a near-fatal space accident. One of his engineering companies went bust after the Challenger shuttle disaster, and in 1992 a court in Prescott, Arizona, found him guilty of defrauding nine investors in a partnership he organised.

The son of a Brigadier General, Scott was selected as an astronaut in 1963 after serving as a jet pilot. His first flight, aboard Gemini 8 in March 1966, ended in near-disaster. He and command pilot Neil Armstrong performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space, but there was a short circuit in a thruster mechanism.

For 30 minutes, the craft tumbled violently at the rate of 60 turns a minute. Nasa admitted that the spacemen almost died, but Armstrong was eventually able to bring it under control, They returned to earth via an emergency landing in the Pacific.

Scott then joined the third manned Apollo flight in March 1969 as command module pilot, a mission which practised lunar-orbit, docking and landing.

His third and final spaceflight was as spacecraft commander of Apollo 15, which was launched on July 26, 1971. Apollo 15 was the fourth manned lunar landing mission and the first to visit and explore the moon's Hadley Rille and Apennine Mountains.

Scott and lunar module pilot James B. Irwin spent three days on the moon, setting a new record for lunar surface time. They were the first astronauts to use the lunar module which overturned. Scott made history by cursing on American TV during live coverage of the feat.

But the gloss began to come off his public image shortly after the flight. Nasa discovered that the three astronauts had carried 400 unauthorised stamp envelopes.

They planned to sell some to stamp collectors but later realised that the scheme was wrong and confessed to their bosses. As punishment, Scott was transferred to a desk job at the Johnson space centre as technical assistant for the remaining Apollo flights. He later became Director of Nasa's Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Centre, but resigned in 1977 to found his own company, Scott-Preyss Associates.

One of Scott's businesses went under after the shuttle disaster. ``Nasa had to redraw the wheel,'' his friend Mr, Bloomfield said yesterday. ``His technology was not implicated in the crash at all, but everything had to be reassessed after that failure. He was an innocent victim of that.''

He has been linked with several companies since, one of which was dissolved in 1986, and his current firm is involved in satellite retrieval.

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