Cape Canaveral, Florida (JFK+50) 51 years ago today, May 15, 1963, American astronaut Gordon Cooper* was launched into orbit aboard the "FAITH 7."
Cooper's flight, the last Mercury mission, included 22 orbits over a period of more than 34 hours giving the astronaut more space time than the previous five flights put together.
Gordon Cooper was also the first American to sleep on the launching pad during countdown and to sleep while in earth orbit.
Leroy Gordon Cooper
September 10, 1964
The flight of Faith 7, however, was not perfect.
On the 19th orbit, the capsule's power failed. With cabin temperature over 100 degrees, Gordon Cooper was forced to take manual control of his spacecraft and prepare for reentry.
Using his view out the window as a reference point and his wrist watch to keep time, the astronaut successfully returned to earth.
Upon his death from heart failure at the age of 77, NASA issued the following statement...
"As one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, Gordon Cooper was one of the faces of America's fledgling space program.
He truly portrayed the right stuff, and he helped gain the backing and enthusiasm of the American public so critical for the spirit of exploration."
*Leroy Gordon Cooper (1927-2004) was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Ohio with a US Army commission. He transferred to the USAF in 1949 and earned a degree in aerospace engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1957.
Cooper, the youngest of the original 7 Mercury astronauts, flew as command pilot of GEMINI 5 with Robert Conrad in 1965. The flight set a space endurance record of 3.3 million miles in nearly 191 hours.
Colonel Cooper retired in 1970. He worked for Walt Disney as a VP of research and development for EPCOT and died in Ventura, California.
His many awards include the JOHN F. KENNEDY TROPHY.
JFK, Gordon Cooper and Gus Grissom
JFK Library Photo
Leroy Gordon Cooper
NASA photograph (1963)
Cape Canaveral, Florida