Gordon Cooper
Overview
 
Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. (March 6, 1927October 4, 2004), also known as Gordon Cooper, was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 aeronautical engineer, test pilot and NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 astronaut
Astronaut
An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft....

. Cooper was one of the seven original astronauts
Mercury Seven
Mercury Seven was the group of seven Mercury astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959. They are also referred to as the Original Seven and Astronaut Group 1...

 in Project Mercury
Project Mercury
In January 1960 NASA awarded Western Electric Company a contract for the Mercury tracking network. The value of the contract was over $33 million. Also in January, McDonnell delivered the first production-type Mercury spacecraft, less than a year after award of the formal contract. On February 12,...

, the first manned space effort by the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. He was the first American to sleep in orbit, flew the longest spaceflight of the Mercury project, and was the last American to be launched alone into Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 orbit and conduct an entire solo orbital mission.
Encyclopedia
Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. (March 6, 1927October 4, 2004), also known as Gordon Cooper, was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 aeronautical engineer, test pilot and NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 astronaut
Astronaut
An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft....

. Cooper was one of the seven original astronauts
Mercury Seven
Mercury Seven was the group of seven Mercury astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959. They are also referred to as the Original Seven and Astronaut Group 1...

 in Project Mercury
Project Mercury
In January 1960 NASA awarded Western Electric Company a contract for the Mercury tracking network. The value of the contract was over $33 million. Also in January, McDonnell delivered the first production-type Mercury spacecraft, less than a year after award of the formal contract. On February 12,...

, the first manned space effort by the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. He was the first American to sleep in orbit, flew the longest spaceflight of the Mercury project, and was the last American to be launched alone into Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 orbit and conduct an entire solo orbital mission. Later he also participated in the Gemini project.

Early years

Cooper was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma
Shawnee, Oklahoma
Shawnee is a city in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 29,857 at the 2010 census. The city is part of the Oklahoma City-Shawnee Combined Statistical Area; it is also the county seat of Pottawatomie County and the principal city of the Shawnee Micropolitan Statistical...

. He grew up there and later moved to Murray, Kentucky
Murray, Kentucky
Murray is a city in Calloway County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 17,741 at the 2010 census and has a micropolitan area population of 37,191. It is the 22nd largest city in Kentucky...

 where he attended public schools. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with over 4.5 million youth members in its age-related divisions...

 and achieved the second highest rank of Life Scout. In 1945 Cooper turned down the possibility of a football scholarship to enlist in the Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 but was too late to see combat in the Second World War. After completing three years of coursework at the University of Hawaii
University of Hawaii
The University of Hawaii System, formally the University of Hawaii and popularly known as UH, is a public, co-educational college and university system that confers associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees through three university campuses, seven community college campuses, an employment...

 he received an Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 commission. Cooper met his first wife Trudy (the only wife of a Mercury astronaut with a private pilot's license
Pilot certification in the United States
Pilot certification in the United States is required for an individual to act as a pilot of an aircraft. It is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration , a branch of the Department of Transportation...

) while in Hawaii and they married in 1947.

Military career

Cooper transferred his commission to the Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 in 1949, was placed on active duty and received flight training at Perrin AFB, Texas and Williams AFB
Williams Air Force Base
Williams Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base, located in Mesa, and about southeast of Phoenix, Arizona.It was active as a training base for both the United States Army Air Forces, as well as the USAF from 1941 until its closure in 1993...

, Arizona.

Cooper's first flight assignment came in 1950 at Landstuhl Air Base
Ramstein Air Base
Ramstein Air Base is a United States Air Force base in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. It serves as headquarters for the United States Air Forces in Europe and is also a North Atlantic Treaty Organization installation...

, West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 where he flew F-84 Thunderjet
F-84 Thunderjet
The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was an American turbojet fighter-bomber aircraft. Originating as a 1944 United States Army Air Forces proposal for a "day fighter", the F-84 flew in 1946...

s and F-86 Sabre
F-86 Sabre
The North American F-86 Sabre was a transonic jet fighter aircraft. Produced by North American Aviation, the Sabre is best known as America's first swept wing fighter which could counter the similarly-winged Soviet MiG-15 in high speed dogfights over the skies of the Korean War...

s for four years. While in Germany he also attended the European Extension of the University of Maryland
University of Maryland University College
The University of Maryland University College is located in the unincorporated community of Adelphi in Prince George's County, Maryland in the United States. Serving over 90,000 students worldwide, UMUC is the largest 4-year public university in Maryland and one of the largest distance learning...

. Returning to the United States, he studied for two years at the Air Force Institute of Technology
Air Force Institute of Technology
The Air Force Institute of Technology is a graduate school and provider of professional and continuing education that is part of the United States Air Force. It is located on Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. A component of Air University and Air Education and Training Command, AFIT has been...

 in Ohio and in 1957 completed his bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering
Aerospace engineering
Aerospace engineering is the primary branch of engineering concerned with the design, construction and science of aircraft and spacecraft. It is divided into two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering...

. Cooper was then assigned to the Experimental Flight Test School at Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

 in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 and after graduation was posted to the Flight Test Engineering Division at Edwards where he served as a test pilot
Test pilot
A test pilot is an aviator who flies new and modified aircraft in specific maneuvers, known as flight test techniques or FTTs, allowing the results to be measured and the design to be evaluated....

 and project manager testing the F-102A and F-106B
F-106 Delta Dart
The Convair F-106 Delta Dart was the primary all-weather interceptor aircraft for the United States Air Force from the 1960s through the 1980s. Designed as the so-called "Ultimate Interceptor", it has proven to be the last dedicated interceptor in USAF service to date...

. Cooper logged more than 7,000 hours of flight time, with 4,000 hours in jet aircraft. He flew all types of commercial and general aviation
General aviation
General aviation is one of the two categories of civil aviation. It refers to all flights other than military and scheduled airline and regular cargo flights, both private and commercial. General aviation flights range from gliders and powered parachutes to large, non-scheduled cargo jet flights...

 airplanes and helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

s.

Mercury program

While at Edwards, Cooper was intrigued to read an announcement saying a contract had been awarded to McDonnell Aircraft
McDonnell Aircraft
The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation was an American aerospace manufacturer based in St. Louis, Missouri. The company was founded on July 16, 1939 by James Smith McDonnell, and was best known for its military fighters, including the F-4 Phantom II, and manned spacecraft including the Mercury capsule...

 in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

 to build a space capsule. Shortly after this he was called to Washington, D.C. for a NASA briefing on Project Mercury and the part astronauts would play in it. Cooper went through the selection process with the other 109 pilots and was not surprised when he was accepted as the youngest of the first seven American astronauts.

Each of the Mercury astronauts was assigned to a different portion of the project along with other special assignments. Cooper specialized in the Redstone rocket
Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle
The Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle, designed for NASA's Project Mercury, was the first American manned space booster. It was used for six sub-orbital Mercury flights from 1960–61; culminating with the launch of the first, and 11 weeks later, the second American in space.A member of the...

 (and developed a personal survival knife, the Model 17 "Astro" from Randall Made Knives
Randall Made Knives
Randall Made Knives, usually referred to as Randall, is an American manufacturer specializing in custom handcrafted knives founded by Walter Doane "Bo" Randall, Jr. The factory and showroom is located in Orlando, Florida. Randall offers 28 models of knives for different applications, each...

, for astronauts to carry). He also chaired the Emergency Egress Committee, responsible for working out emergency launch pad
Launch pad
A launch pad is the area and facilities where rockets or spacecraft lift off. A spaceport can contain one or many launch pads. A typical launch pad consists of the service and umbilical structures. The service structure provides an access platform to inspect the launch vehicle prior to launch....

 procedures for escape. Cooper served as capsule communicator (CAPCOM) for Alan Shepard
Alan Shepard
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. was an American naval aviator, test pilot, flag officer, and NASA astronaut who in 1961 became the second person, and the first American, in space. This Mercury flight was designed to enter space, but not to achieve orbit...

's first sub-orbital spaceflight
Sub-orbital spaceflight
A sub-orbital space flight is a spaceflight in which the spacecraft reaches space, but its trajectory intersects the atmosphere or surface of the gravitating body from which it was launched, so that it does not complete one orbital revolution....

 in Mercury-Redstone 3
Mercury-Redstone 3
Mercury-Redstone 3 was the first manned space mission of the United States. Astronaut Alan Shepard piloted a 15-minute Project Mercury suborbital flight in the Freedom 7 spacecraft on May 5, 1961 to become the first American in space, three weeks after the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had carried...

 (Freedom 7) and Scott Carpenter
Scott Carpenter
Malcolm Scott Carpenter is an American engineer, former test pilot, astronaut, and aquanaut. He is best known as one of the original seven astronauts selected for NASA's Project Mercury in April 1959....

's flight on Mercury-Atlas 7
Mercury-Atlas 7
-Backup crew:-Crew notes:The original prime crew for Mercury Atlas-7 was to have been Deke Slayton, with Schirra as his back-up. However Slayton was removed from all flight crew availability after the discovery of cardiac arrhythmia during a training run in the g-loading centrifuge...

 (Aurora 7). He was backup pilot for Wally Schirra
Wally Schirra
Walter Marty Schirra, Jr. was an American test pilot, United States Navy officer, and one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts chosen for the Project Mercury, America's effort to put humans in space. He is the only person to fly in all of America's first three space programs...

 in Mercury-Atlas 8
Mercury-Atlas 8
Mercury-Atlas 8 was an early manned space mission, part of NASA's Mercury program. Astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., orbited the Earth six times in the Sigma 7 spacecraft on October 3, 1962, in a nine-hour flight focused mainly on technical evaluation rather than on scientific experimentation...

 (Sigma 7).

Cooper was launched into space on May 15, 1963 aboard the Mercury-Atlas 9
Mercury-Atlas 9
Mercury-Atlas 9 was the final manned space mission of the U.S. Mercury program, launched on May 15, 1963 from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft, named Faith 7, completed 22 Earth orbits before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, piloted by astronaut Gordon Cooper, then...

 (Faith 7) spacecraft, the last Mercury mission. He orbited the Earth 22 times and logged more time in space than all five previous Mercury astronauts combined—34 hours, 19 minutes and 49 seconds, traveling 546,167 miles (878,971 km) at 17,547 mph (28,239 km/h), pulling a maximum of 7.6 g
G-force
The g-force associated with an object is its acceleration relative to free-fall. This acceleration experienced by an object is due to the vector sum of non-gravitational forces acting on an object free to move. The accelerations that are not produced by gravity are termed proper accelerations, and...

 (74.48 m/s²). Cooper achieved an altitude of 165.9 statute miles (267 km) at apogee
Apsis
An apsis , plural apsides , is the point of greatest or least distance of a body from one of the foci of its elliptical orbit. In modern celestial mechanics this focus is also the center of attraction, which is usually the center of mass of the system...

. He was the first American astronaut to sleep not only in orbit but on the launch pad
Launch pad
A launch pad is the area and facilities where rockets or spacecraft lift off. A spaceport can contain one or many launch pads. A typical launch pad consists of the service and umbilical structures. The service structure provides an access platform to inspect the launch vehicle prior to launch....

 during a countdown.
"Spam in a can"

Like all Mercury flights, Faith 7 was designed for fully automatic control, a controversial engineering decision which in many ways reduced the role of an astronaut to that of a passenger and prompted Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager
Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager is a retired major general in the United States Air Force and noted test pilot. He was the first pilot to travel faster than sound...

 to describe Mercury astronauts as spam in a can.

Toward the end of the Faith 7 flight there were mission-threatening technical problems. During the 19th orbit the capsule had a power failure, carbon dioxide levels began rising and the cabin temperature jumped to over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Cooper fell back on his understanding of star patterns, took manual control of the tiny capsule and successfully estimated the correct pitch for re-entry into the atmosphere. Some precision was needed in the calculation since if the capsule came in too deep g-forces would be too large and if its trajectory was too shallow it would bounce off the atmosphere and be sent back into space. Cooper drew lines on the capsule window to help him check his orientation before firing the re-entry rockets. "So I used my wrist watch for time," he later recalled, "my eyeballs out the window for attitude
Attitude dynamics and control
Spacecraft flight dynamics is the science of space vehicle performance, stability, and control. It requires analysis of the six degrees of freedom of the vehicle's flight, which are similar to those of aircraft: translation in three dimensional axes; and its orientation about the vehicle's center...

. Then I fired my retrorockets at the right time and landed right by the carrier." Cooper's cool-headed performance and piloting skills led to a basic rethinking of design philosophy for later space missions.

Gemini

Two years later (August 21, 1965) Cooper flew as command pilot of Gemini 5
Gemini 5
Gemini 5 was a 1965 manned spaceflight in NASA's Gemini program. It was the third manned Gemini flight, the 11th manned American flight and the 19th spaceflight of all time...

 on an eight-day, 120-orbit mission with Pete Conrad
Pete Conrad
Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr. was an American naval officer, astronaut and engineer, and the third person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 12 mission. He set an eight-day space endurance record along with command pilot Gordon Cooper on the Gemini 5 mission, and commanded the Gemini 11 mission...

. The two astronauts established a new space endurance record by traveling a distance of 3,312,993 miles (5,331,745 km) in 190 hours and 56 minutes, showing astronauts could survive in space for the length of time necessary to go from the Earth to the Moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 and back. Cooper was the first astronaut to make a second orbital flight and later served as backup command pilot for Gemini 12
Gemini 12
-Backup crew:-Mission parameters:*Mass: *Perigee: *Apogee: *Inclination: 28.87°*Period: 88.87 min-Docking:*Docked: November 12, 1966 - 01:06:00 UTC*Undocked: November 13, 1966 - 20:18:00 UTC-Space walk:...

.

Retirement from astronaut corps

Cooper was selected as backup commander for Apollo 10
Apollo 10
Apollo 10 was the fourth manned mission in the American Apollo space program. It was an F type mission—its purpose was to be a "dry run" for the Apollo 11 mission, testing all of the procedures and components of a Moon landing without actually landing on the Moon itself. The mission included the...

 and hoped for an assignment as commander of Apollo 13
Apollo 13
Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST. The landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the service module upon which the Command...

. However, after a falling-out with NASA management, Alan Shepard
Alan Shepard
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. was an American naval aviator, test pilot, flag officer, and NASA astronaut who in 1961 became the second person, and the first American, in space. This Mercury flight was designed to enter space, but not to achieve orbit...

 was chosen instead (Shepard's crew was later moved onto Apollo 14
Apollo 14
Apollo 14 was the eighth manned mission in the American Apollo program, and the third to land on the Moon. It was the last of the "H missions", targeted landings with two-day stays on the Moon with two lunar EVAs, or moonwalks....

 and the Apollo 13 command went to Jim Lovell
Jim Lovell
James "Jim" Arthur Lovell, Jr., is a former NASA astronaut and a retired captain in the United States Navy, most famous as the commander of the Apollo 13 mission, which suffered a critical failure en route to the Moon but was brought back safely to Earth by the efforts of the crew and mission...

). Having flown 222 hours in space, Cooper retired from NASA and the Air Force on July 31, 1970 as a colonel
Colonel (United States)
In the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, colonel is a senior field grade military officer rank just above the rank of lieutenant colonel and just below the rank of brigadier general...

.

Later years

After leaving NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

, Cooper served on several corporate boards and as technical consultant for more than a dozen companies in fields ranging from high performance boat design to energy, construction and aircraft design. During the 1970s, he worked for The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue. Founded on October 16, 1923, by Walt and Roy Disney as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, Walt Disney Productions established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into...

 as a vice-president of research and development for Epcot
Epcot
Epcot is a theme park in the Walt Disney World Resort, located near Orlando, Florida. The park is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely international culture and technological innovation. The second park built at the resort, it opened on October 1, 1982 and was initially named...

.

After divorcing his first wife Trudy, Cooper married Suzan Taylor in 1972. He had four daughters, Camala Keoki (Cooper) Tharpe and Janita Lee (Cooper) Stone (both from his first marriage) along with Elizabeth Jo and Colleen Taylor (from his second marriage).

Cooper received an honorary doctorate of science degree from Oklahoma State University in 1967. His autobiography, Leap of Faith (ISBN 0-06-019416-2), co-authored by Bruce B. Henderson
Bruce B. Henderson
Bruce Henderson , also known as Bruce B. Henderson, is an American writer and the author of more than 20 nonfiction books. He is a member of the Authors Guild and American Society of Journalists and Authors, and has taught writing courses at USC School of Journalism and Stanford University...

, recounted his experiences with the Air Force and NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 along with his efforts to expose an alleged UFO conspiracy theory
UFO conspiracy theory
A UFO conspiracy theory is any one of many often overlapping conspiracy theories which argue that evidence of the reality of unidentified flying objects is being suppressed by various governments around the world...

. Cooper was also a major contributor to the book In the Shadow of the Moon
In the Shadow of the Moon (book)
In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility is a 2007 non-fiction book by space historians Francis French and Colin Burgess...

(published after his death) which offered Cooper's final published thoughts on his life and career.

Death

Cooper developed Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system...

 late in life and at age 77 died from heart failure at his home in Ventura, California
Ventura, California
Ventura is the county seat of Ventura County, California, United States, incorporated in 1866. The population was 106,433 at the 2010 census, up from 100,916 at the 2000 census. Ventura is accessible via U.S...

 on October 4, 2004, which was also the 47th anniversary of the Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1 ) was the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth's orbit. It was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space...

 launch and the same day SpaceShipOne made its second official qualifying flight and won the Ansari X-Prize.

UFO claims

Cooper claimed to have seen his first UFO while flying over West Germany in 1951, although he denied reports he had seen a UFO during his Mercury flight.

In 1957, when Cooper was 30 and a captain, he was assigned to Fighter Section of the Experimental Flight Test Engineering Division at Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

 in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. He acted as a test pilot and project manager. On May 3 of that year, he had a crew setting up an Askania
Askania
Askania Cinetheodolite is a camera-based system that measures and records azimuth, elevation, and time data on 35mm film along with an image of a target. Multiple cinetheodolites generally operated together and each system is slewed in azimuth and elevation to track the target...

-cinetheodolite precision landing system on a dry lake
Dry lake
Dry lakes are ephemeral lakebeds, or a remnant of an endorheic lake. Such flats consist of fine-grained sediments infused with alkali salts. Dry lakes are also referred to as alkali flats, sabkhas, playas or mud flats...

 bed. This cinetheodolite system would take pictures at one frame per second as an aircraft landed. The crew consisted of James Bittick and Jack Gettys who began work at the site just before 0800, using both still and motion picture cameras. According to his accounts, later that morning they returned to report to Cooper that they saw a "strange-looking saucer" like aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 that did not make a sound either on landing or take off.

According to his accounts, Cooper realized that these men, who on a regular basis have seen experimental aircraft
Experimental aircraft
An experimental aircraft is an aircraft that has not yet been fully proven in flight. Often, this implies that new aerospace technologies are being tested on the aircraft, though the label is more broad....

 flying and landing around them as part of their job of filming those aircraft, were clearly worked up and unnerved. They explained how the saucer hovered over them, landed 50 yards away from them using three extended landing gears and then took off as they approached for a closer look. Being photographers with cameras in hand, they of course shot images with 35mm and 4-by-5 still cameras as well as motion film. There was a special Pentagon
The Pentagon
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, "the Pentagon" is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.Designed by the American architect...

 number to call to report incidents like this. He called and it immediately went up the chain of command
Chain of Command
Chain of Command may refer to:* Chain of command, in a military context, the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed* "Chain of Command" , the fifth episode of the first season of Beast Wars...

 until he was instructed by a general
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 to have the film developed (but to make no prints of it) and send it right away in a locked courier pouch. As he had not been instructed to not look at the negative
Negative (photography)
In photography, a negative may refer to three different things, although they are all related.-A negative:Film for 35 mm cameras comes in long narrow strips of chemical-coated plastic or cellulose acetate. As each image is captured by the camera onto the film strip, the film strip advances so that...

s before sending them, he did. He said the quality of the photography
Photography
Photography is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film...

 was excellent as would be expected from the experienced photographers who took them. What he saw was exactly what they had described to him. He did not see the movie film before everything was sent away. He expected that there would be a follow up investigation since an aircraft of unknown origin had landed in a highly classified
Classified information
Classified information is sensitive information to which access is restricted by law or regulation to particular groups of persons. A formal security clearance is required to handle classified documents or access classified data. The clearance process requires a satisfactory background investigation...

 military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 installation, but nothing was ever said of the incident again. He was never able to track down what happened to those photos. He assumed that they ended up going to the Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

's official UFO investigation, Project Blue Book
Project Blue Book
Project Blue Book was one of a series of systematic studies of unidentified flying objects conducted by the United States Air Force. Started in 1952, it was the second revival of such a study...

, which was based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base in Greene and Montgomery counties in the state of Ohio. It includes both Wright and Patterson Fields, which were originally Wilbur Wright Field and Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot. Patterson Field is located approximately...

.

He held claim until his death that the government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 is indeed covering up information about UFOs. He gives the example of President
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 Harry Truman who said on April 4, 1950, "I can assure you that flying saucers, given that they exist, are not constructed by any power on Earth." He also pointed out that there were hundreds of reports made by his fellow pilots, many coming from military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 jet
Jet aircraft
A jet aircraft is an aircraft propelled by jet engines. Jet aircraft generally fly much faster than propeller-powered aircraft and at higher altitudes – as high as . At these altitudes, jet engines achieve maximum efficiency over long distances. The engines in propeller-powered aircraft...

 pilots sent to respond to radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 or visual sightings from the ground. He was quite convinced till the day he died that he had seen UFOs and was a strong advocate to make the government come clean with what it knew.

In his memoirs Cooper wrote he had seen other unexplained aircraft several times during his career and also said hundreds of similar reports had been made, often by military jet pilots responding to radar or visual sightings from the ground. He further claimed these sightings had been "swept under the rug" by the US government. Throughout his later life Cooper expressed repeatedly in interviews he had seen extraterrestrial crafts and described his recollections for the documentary Out of the Blue
Out of the Blue (2002 film)
Out of the Blue is a feature-length documentary on the UFO phenomenon.The film is narrated by Peter Coyote and attempts to show, through interviews with members of the scientific community, eye witnesses and high-ranking military and government personnel, that some unidentified flying objects could...

.

Memorial spaceflights

On April 29, 2007, Cooper's ashes (along with those of Star Trek
Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

actor James Doohan
James Doohan
James Montgomery "Jimmy" Doohan was a Canadian character and voice actor best known for his role as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the television and film series Star Trek...

 and 206 others) were launched from New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 on a sub-orbital memorial flight by a privately owned UP Aerospace
UP Aerospace
UP Aerospace, Inc. is a private spaceflight corporation based out of Denver, Colorado. UP Aerospace provides ultra-low cost space access and payload transportation for corporate, military and educational payloads, via their SpaceLoft XL Sounding rocket launch vehicles.- History and Future Plans...

 SpaceLoft XL
SpaceLoft XL
The SpaceLoft XL is a sounding rocket developed by UP Aerospace. The rocket has a diameter of 10 inches , and is 20 feet long. It is capable of lofting a 110 lb payload to a sub-orbital trajectory with an apogee of 140 miles...

 sounding rocket
Sounding rocket
A sounding rocket, sometimes called a research rocket, is an instrument-carrying rocket designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight. The origin of the term comes from nautical vocabulary, where to sound is to throw a weighted line from a ship into...

. Although the capsule carrying the ashes fell back toward Earth as planned, it was lost in mountainous landscape. The search was thwarted by bad weather but after a few weeks the capsule was found and the ashes it carried were returned to the families. The ashes were then launched on the Explorers orbital mission (August 3, 2008) but were lost when the Falcon 1
Falcon 1
The Falcon 1 is a partially reusable launch system designed and manufactured by SpaceX, a space transportation company in Hawthorne, California. The two-stage-to-orbit rocket uses LOX/RP-1 for both stages, the first powered by a single Merlin engine and the second powered by a single Kestrel engine...

 rocket failed two minutes into the flight.

Awards and decorations

Cooper received many awards including the Air Force Legion of Merit
Legion of Merit
The Legion of Merit is a military decoration of the United States armed forces that is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements...

, the Distinguished Flying Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross (United States)
The Distinguished Flying Cross is a medal awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918." The...

 with oak leaf clusters, the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal
NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal
The NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal is an award of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that was established in 1991. The medal is awarded to both civilian members of NASA and military astronauts....

, the Collier Trophy
Collier Trophy
The Collier Trophy is an annual aviation award administered by the U.S. National Aeronautics Association , presented to those who have made "the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space...

, the Harmon Trophy
Harmon Trophy
The Harmon Trophy is a set of three international trophies, to be awarded annually to the world's outstanding aviator, aviatrix , and aeronaut...

, the DeMolay Legion of Honor, the John F. Kennedy Trophy, the Iven C. Kincheloe Award
Iven C. Kincheloe Award
The Iven C. Kincheloe Award recognizes outstanding professional accomplishment in the conduct of flight testing. It was established in 1958 by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and honors the memory of test pilot and Korean War ace Iven C...

, the University of Hawaii
University of Hawaii
The University of Hawaii System, formally the University of Hawaii and popularly known as UH, is a public, co-educational college and university system that confers associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees through three university campuses, seven community college campuses, an employment...

 Regents Medal and the Columbus Medal. He was a Master Mason (member of Carbondale Lodge 82 in Carbondale, Colorado) and was given the honorary 33rd Degree by the Scottish Rite
Scottish Rite
The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry , commonly known as simply the Scottish Rite, is one of several Rites of the worldwide fraternity known as Freemasonry...

 Masonic body.

Cooper was a member of several groups and societies including the Society of Experimental Test Pilots
Society of Experimental Test Pilots
The Society of Experimental Test Pilots is an international organization that seeks to promote air safety and contributes to aeronautical advancement by promoting sound aeronautical design and development; interchanging ideas, thoughts and suggestions of the members, assisting in the professional...

, the American Astronautical Society
American Astronautical Society
Formed in 1954, the American Astronautical Society is an independent scientific and technical group in the United States dedicated to the advancement of space science and exploration. AAS supports NASA's Vision for Space Exploration and is a member of the Coalition for Space Exploration and the...

, Scottish Rite
Scottish Rite
The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry , commonly known as simply the Scottish Rite, is one of several Rites of the worldwide fraternity known as Freemasonry...

, York Rite
York Rite
The York Rite or American Rite is one of several Rites of the worldwide fraternity known as Freemasonry. A Rite is a series of progressive degrees that are conferred by various Masonic organizations or bodies, each of which operates under the control of its own central authority...

, Shriners
Shriners
The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, also commonly known as Shriners and abbreviated A.A.O.N.M.S., established in 1870, is an appendant body to Freemasonry, based in the United States...

, Rotary Club, Order of Daedalians
Order of Daedalians
The Order of Daedalians is a fraternal and professional order of American military pilots. The namesake of the order is Daedalus who according to Greek mythology was the first person to achieve heavier-than-air flight.-History:...

, Confederate Air Force and Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with over 4.5 million youth members in its age-related divisions...

.

Gordon Cooper Technology Center
Gordon Cooper Technology Center
Gordon Cooper Technology Center is a public career and technology education center located in The Moon and is part of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education system.-Namesake:...

 in Shawnee
Shawnee
The Shawnee, Shaawanwaki, Shaawanooki and Shaawanowi lenaweeki, are an Algonquian-speaking people native to North America. Historically they inhabited the areas of Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Western Maryland, Kentucky, Indiana, and Pennsylvania...

, Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

 is named after Cooper.

Cultural influence

Cooper's accomplishments (along with his widely noted and appealing personality) were depicted in the 1983 film The Right Stuff in which he was portrayed by actor Dennis Quaid
Dennis Quaid
Dennis William Quaid is an American actor known for his comedic and dramatic roles. First gaining widespread attention in the 1980s, his career rebounded in the 1990s after he overcame an addiction to drugs and an eating disorder...

. Cooper worked closely with the production company on this project and reportedly, every line uttered by Quaid is attributable to Cooper's recollection. Quaid met with Cooper before the casting call and rapidly learned his mannerisms. Quaid also had his hair cut and dyed to match how the former astronaut's hair looked during the 1950s and 1960s. Cooper was later depicted in the 1998 HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, in which his character was played by Robert C. Treveiler. Cooper appeared as himself in an episode of the television series CHiPs
CHiPs
CHiPs is an American television drama series produced by MGM Studios that originally aired on NBC from September 15, 1977, to July 17, 1983. CHiPs followed the lives of two motorcycle police officers of the California Highway Patrol...

and during the early 1980s made regular call in appearances on Late Night with David Letterman
Late Night with David Letterman
Late Night with David Letterman is a nightly hour-long comedy talk show on NBC that was created and hosted by David Letterman. It premiered in 1982 as the first incarnation of the Late Night franchise and went off the air in 1993, after Letterman left NBC and moved to Late Show on CBS. Late Night...

. The Thunderbirds
Thunderbirds (TV series)
Thunderbirds is a British mid-1960s science fiction television show devised by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and made by AP Films using a form of marionette puppetry dubbed "Supermarionation"...

character Gordon Tracy
Gordon Tracy
Gordon Tracy is a fictional character from Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation television show Thunderbirds and the subsequent films Thunderbirds Are GO and Thunderbird 6. The character also appeared in the live action movie Thunderbirds....

 was named after him.

In 2010, Cooper's name and likeness appeared in a mock newspaper advertisement for a fictional ice pop
Ice pop
An ice pop, also referred to in the United States as a popsicle, and in the United Kingdom as an ice lolly, lolly ice or ice lollipop, is a frozen, water-based dessert. It is made by freezing flavored liquid around a stick. Often, the juice is colored artificially...

-type product called "Rocket Poppeteers." The ad was part of a viral marketing
Viral marketing
Viral marketing, viral advertising, or marketing buzz are buzzwords referring to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of viruses...

 campaign for the upcoming J.J. Abrams film Super 8
Super 8 (film)
Super 8 is a 2011 American science fiction action film written and directed by J. J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, and Kyle Chandler and was released on June 10, 2011 in conventional and IMAX theaters...

, and was originally accessible only by inputting certain information via one of the film's affiliated websites. The extent of Cooper's relevance to the project was unclear.

Quotes

(This expression about the high level of funding needed for spaceflight was popular among test pilots and astronauts in the United States during the late 1950s and early 1960s)

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK