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Space United States

Astronaut Gordon 'Gordo' Cooper, 1927-2004 295

Posted by timothy
from the good-run dept.
Grant writes "Leroy Gordon 'Gordo' Cooper, one of America's first seven astronauts, died today in his home at the age of 77. A number of space related sites are carrying the news." Grant points to coverage at SpaceRef.com, Space.com, Nasa Watch, and CNN, writing "His accomplishments will continue to inspire and he will be missed."
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Astronaut Gordon 'Gordo' Cooper, 1927-2004

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  • Sadly ironic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PrimeWaveZ (513534) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:24PM (#10436037)
    That his death occured on the day the Anasari X-Prize was claimed by the first group successful for launching a commercially-developed space vehicle.
    • Re:Sadly ironic (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rebeka thomas (673264)
      I think it's interesting how LONG these astronauts are living. They seem to all be getting up to the 70s/80s.

      Mustn't be too much bad with the radiation and stresses involved in being launched up into space regularly. Unless of course that's not what they did...
      • Re:Sadly ironic (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mangu (126918)
        I think it's interesting how LONG these astronauts are living.


        I was thinking exactly the opposite: 77 seems so premature. These guys were getting the best physical conditioning and medical care the science of the day could get. Why did he have a shorter life than the average life expectancy in a typical developed country today?

        • Re:Sadly ironic (Score:5, Informative)

          by ArcticCelt (660351) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:49PM (#10436153)
          "Why did he have a shorter life than the average life expectancy in a typical developed country today"

          He surpassed the life expectancy of USA for males and arrived right on target for both sexes.

          USA Life expectancy at birth:
          male: 74.63 years
          total population: 77.43 years

          From CIA The World Factbook [cia.gov]

          • Re:Sadly ironic (Score:4, Interesting)

            by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:27PM (#10436317)
            Life expectancy is based on birth year. His life expectancy was 59.7 years. He did well!
          • Re:Sadly ironic (Score:2, Informative)

            by BaltikaTroika (809862)
            He said "typical developed country". The USA isn't exactly typical among the rest of the developed world, taking into account medicine, education, everybody-else-in-the-world-hating-you, leader's IQ and so on.

            Here are a few more typical developed countries' life expectancy rates:
            Canada 79.96
            UK 78.27
            Germany 78.54
            France 79.44

            So it appears the poster's comment was true when talking about typical countries...

            (Numbers also from the CIA Factbook.)

            BaltikaTroika

          • OK, mea culpa... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mangu (126918) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @12:46AM (#10436707)
            Well, he was a Gringo, of course. I was thinking of an "average" industrialized country, but the United States has the lowest life expexctancy of all of the "industrialized" countries. It's lower, according to the CIA Factbook you mention, than that of Finland, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Austria, and Israel. These are all the "industrialized" countries I could remember.


            OTOH, considering that Israel has total/male/female life expectancies of 79.17/77.08/81.37 years, vs. the US 77.43/74.74/80.36, wouldn't it be advisable to downgrade "terrorism" as a source of danger to life in general?

        • Re:Sadly ironic (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Watcher (15643)
          It probably didn't help that he, and all of the Mercury 7 except for Glenn, was a smoker.

          The stress also couldn't have helped much.

          As it is, with some things like cancer, it doesn't matter how old you are, or how good your physical condition, it can still take you down. Good health helps, but something like the more common forms of pancreatic or stomach cancer can knock the best of us out for the count.
        • The best medical care and excercise is only so useful when your diet is full of poison and bad food. Read the labels on food products for what most of us eat, and find out what is in your food at most restaurants. There are other vectors as well, air pollution, water pollution, ...

          All in all, he did live long time for someone who was born the decade he was born.

          InnerWeb

        • He got to fly in *SPACE*! That's *got* to be worth trading 10 years for!
      • Re:Sadly ironic (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BCW2 (168187) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:44PM (#10436395) Journal
        Consider that he outlived more than 50% of his military peers. Being an Astronaut proved to be much safer than being a test pilot. Even though none of us that remember all the Mercury flights thought so at the time. Most of the test flights had blown up. I always thought that those guys had a large pair hanging inline for speed.

        Gordo is now meeting with Shepard, Slayton, Grissom and Conrad. That should be a party. It's hard to believe that Glenn and Schirra are the only ones left.

        Godspeed Gordo, we will miss you.
        • "Gordo is now meeting with Shepard, Slayton, Grissom and Conrad. That should be a party. It's hard to believe that Glenn and Schirra are the only ones left."

          I'm sure he's happier today. Gus Grissom was his best friend, and I'm sure he is glad to once again be able to trade stories and barbs with him.
        • by Spencerian (465343) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @01:08AM (#10436828) Homepage Journal
          I loved Pete Conrad. The characterization of him in the "From the Earth to the Moon" miniseries was pretty enjoyable and showed just how humorous and life-enriched he was.

          However, he was not an Original 7 astronaut, but part of Group 2, which includes most of the Apollo and Gemini veterans including notables like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, and John Young.

          The three surviving Original 7 astronauts are John Glenn, Wally Schirra (also interestingly portrayed in "From...Moon") and Scott Carpenter, who kinda got all hippie-high during his flight, overused his fuel reserves and dropped himself about 250 miles off target from splashdown.
    • by bizpile (758055) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:31PM (#10436082) Homepage
      Sadly ironic

      I think it's more coincidental than ironic, but I could be wrong
    • Re:Sadly ironic (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032) <jcr@NoSPaM.mac.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:42PM (#10436121) Journal
      Yes, it is. I hope that he knew about Rutan's achievement before he died.

      RIP Gordo, the world could sure use a few more of you.

      -jcr
    • ...from The Right Stuff: [imdb.com]

      Gordon Cooper : You know what makes this bird go up? FUNDING makes this bird go up.
      Gus Grissom : He's right. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.
      ...and the flight of the SpaceShipOne is the first nail in the coffin of the notion that big government bling-bling is necessary for space travel.
      • Of course, what he said is no less true today than it was at the time. It still took about twenty million bucks to get SpaceShip One over the finish line.

        -jcr
      • by jdhutchins (559010) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:32PM (#10436342)
        Kinda OT, but:
        It's been said once, it's been said a million times: SpaceShipOne does not mean that NASA is a useless, wasteful government agency. SpaceShipOne did not go into orbit, a very major distinction (not to knock what they did). But it's a very different ball game, and NASA does quite a bit of other research as well. Who do you think did the inital research that developed many of the technologies that SpaceShipOne uses? It's not a nail in the coffin of government-sponsered spaceflight research.
        • Right, the fact that we can't even get to the moon right now is what means that NASA is a wasteful government agency. Whether it's useless or not is a matter for debate.
        • >>> It's been said once, it's been said a million times: SpaceShipOne does not mean that NASA is a useless, wasteful government agency.

          It might not be useless but it is certainly wasteful...
        • SpaceShipOne does not mean that NASA is a useless, wasteful government agency.
          True. NASA was useless and wasteful long before SpaceShipOne showed up!

          Okay, I jest. NASA's not useless. *cough*

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Gordo (played by Dennis Quaid) steals the show at the end of the movie! Here's the movie's narrator's outcue...


        "The Mercury program was over.

        Four years later, astronaut Gus Grissom was killed, along with astronauts White and Chaffey, when fire swept through their Apollo capsule.

        But on that glorious day in May, 1963, Gordo cooper went higher, farther, and faster than any other American.

        Twenty-two complete orbits around the world.

        He was the last American ever to go into Space alone.

        For a brief moment
      • Actualy, what he said is still true. If it wasn't for Paul Allen and his funding of Scaled Composites, SpaceShip One would very likely have never won the prise.

        Of course, it's not to say that funding was the only factor, but it was a critical componant.

    • ... of John Adams [whitehouse.gov] and Thomas Jefferson [whitehouse.gov]. The second and third presidents of the USA, who both died on July 4th, 1826, 50 years to the day after Independence Day.
    • Re:Sadly ironic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @01:13AM (#10436842) Homepage Journal
      I'm not sure I'd use the term "ironic". In a way, it's almost appropriate. As one generation of innovators and pilots pass away, another is springing forth.


      How many times have innovators become the major obstruction, either deliberately or even just by being there? Sometimes, you have to let go, in order to move on.


      Gordon Cooper represented the Old Order. The NASA way of doing things. The big-budget, cutting-edge frontier of science way of viewing the world. In his time, that was an essential perspective. Nobody could do anything, if it weren't for the first few. Nobody would know how, and few enough of those would be willing to take such enormous risks.


      Without the achievements of the Americans in the form of NASA, the Russians and (ultimately) the Germans, SpaceShipOne would never have existed. Even the very recent work (eg: remote-controlled probes and landers, the ion drive and guidance system AI of DS-1, etc) will be essential for successful migration to a space-based society.


      Let's not forget the other players, either. The British HOTOL program (despite being cancelled) did result in a lot of progress in engine technology. It also inspired a lot of progress in reusability, far beyond NASA's vision of the Space Shuttle.


      The Australians, too, with their successful development of SCRAM-jet technology, have made it viable, for the first time, to think of vehicles capable of reaching LEO without the aid of rockets. None of this is research the private sector could have afforded, even if it had the vision necessary to understand what could be done.


      Every single one of the pioneering astronauts, Gordon Cooper amongst them, represented this kind of heavy-duty R&D. They were, after all, the guys test-flying this stuff. If they did not absolutely understand what they were doing, did not absolutely understand the capabilities and behaviour of what they were flying, they probably wouldn't have made it back to Earth.


      Those who have died along the way have invariably done so because either they, or those they depended upon, did NOT have that depth of understanding. That's not a critisism - it's a plain and simple fact. The more unknowns you face, the lower your chances of survival. The only way to ensure survival, therefore, is to know as much as physically possible.


      There's a lot of cutting-edge R&D that still needs to be done, by the Gordon Coopers of the world. But not for sub-orbital and LEO flights. That work's been done. It's been done well enough that Scaled Composites could build a vehicle capable of a 70+ mile altitude (mostly) controlled flight.


      Gordon Cooper has earned his rest. The day the X-Prize was won proved, beyond all doubt, that his work had a meaning beyond the (somewhat inane and childish) political squabbles of the 60s. I hope he did get to see the flight that secured the prize. His send-off was the successful transfer of the edge of space to humanity. If you're going to die, could you ask for anything better?

  • Executive Summary (Score:2, Informative)

    by hardlined (785357)
    "Leroy Gordon Cooper, one of the nation's first astronauts who once set a space endurance record by traveling more than 3.3 million miles aboard Gemini 5 in 1965, died on Monday, NASA said. He was 77." -CNN
    • who's the best? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by p51d007 (656414)
      I still love the famous line from the "Right Stuff" Who's the best pilot you ever saw......you're looking at him! I was just over 3 years old when he flew in Faith 7, and it was nice back then to have real "heros" to look up to, unlike the gansters that todays youth look up to. God speed Gordo Cooper! I'm sure you, Gus, Deke, and Alan are having a good time catching up on things up there in heaven......
  • Farewell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ann Elk (668880) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:27PM (#10436057)

    Blue skies, Gordo.

    • Re:Farewell (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BigFire (13822) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:33PM (#10436092)
      Truely a fantastic pilot. Sure he was more than confident, but he has the skills to back that up. During his historic Mercury 7 flight, he watch as each and every single one of the automatic guidence system failed on re-entry. In the end, he has two instruments left for guidence, the window and his watch. He still managed to bring his craft closer to the actual splashdown bullseye than all previous 6 capsules.
    • Re:Farewell (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NOLAChief (646613) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @12:17AM (#10436547)
      Hard to believe...he was at Stennis Space Center just a few weeks ago with fellow astronauts Scott Carpenter and Wally Schirra promoting a scholarship program they had founded, so I got a chance to see him speak. Obviously they had all aged, but it looked like he had more than the others, unfortunately. But his confidence was still there; you could feel it in the room. Truly an extraordinary person. Thank you for leading the way, Mr. Cooper. We'll try to make you proud.
    • by Erbo (384)
      One last time:

      "Go, Hot Dog, GO!!!!!"

      A very sad milestone on a day already marked by two other great space milestones. Let us pledge to carry on our efforts to reach out into space, so that Gordo's heroics, and those of all those other astronauts, will not have been in vain.

    • Re:Farewell (Score:3, Informative)

      by istartedi (132515)

      Come on. He was an astronaut: Black skies, Gordo. :)

  • Gordo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by globaljustin (574257) <justinglobal@gmB ... minus physicist> on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:29PM (#10436072) Homepage Journal
    This is a time for everyone captivated by spaceshipone to remember Gordon Cooper and all the astronauts for their contributions to space exploration and for just having the right stuff.

    Notice on spaceshipone's first space flight last week, when asked about the 29 rolls at the top of his ascent, the pilot brushed it all off, "oh, it was nothing, training just took over."

    Also, notice spaceshipone's incredible resemblance to the X-planes tested in 50's by test pilots like Chuck Yeager. Basically, spaceshipone is using 1950's technology to make its headlines.

    It was the mercury astronauts and Russian cosmonauts who brought our backward world kicking and screaming to new frontiers first.
    • Re:Gordo (Score:4, Informative)

      by Vess V. (310830) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:35PM (#10436100) Homepage
      Small correction: SS1's first space flight was in June, not last week.
    • I'm saddened by Gordo's death, but...

      I'm not sure that ther's any resemblance between Spaceship One and the X planes. They were both dropped from other craft, and like Spaceship One, most X planes had wings, but that's about where the resemblance ends.
  • by sailracer6 (262434) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:34PM (#10436098) Journal
    It is interesting to note that Gordon Cooper alleged in a book he wrote a few years ago, "Leap of Faith," that he encountered 'flying saucers' landing and flying while working as a military test pilot in the early 1950s, and that footage he had taken of these saucers was confiscated from him.

    I don't know anything else. Would someone else care to comment on this?

    Amazon link to the book:
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0061098779/ qid=1096943403/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_2_1/002-2236212-76 16055 [amazon.com]

    • The existence and anomalous nature of these craft has been known to anyone who has dared to think outside the box and recognize valid testimony (albeit unusual) for almost 60 years.

      It has been testified to by countless (hundreds in fact) military officials and government authorities. The Air Force itself admitted that many craft sighted were not it's own even though they performed extremely complex aeronautical maneuevers. Please go here [disclosureproject.org] or here [ufoevidence.org], or here [cufos.org] if you would like to do further reading.

      In cas
      • Too many people who believe what you're talking about do, and their lack of credibility rubs off on you. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but the tinfoil hat crowd raise the bar for the evidence you must present for sane people to believe you.

        • Too many people who believe what you're talking about do, and their lack of credibility rubs off on you.

          In reference to "lack of credibility" please read the other reply to the parent I just posted.

          In reference to "evidence." It's all there for anyone who wants to look at it. For a scientific viewpoint, I highly recommend the Condon Report of 1969. Read any section but the conclusion and you will see some great scientific analysis. For info on why the conclusion of that report differs widely from the
      • > The Air Force itself

        Yes, because it makes perfect sense for the air force to talk about classified flyers (thats assuming you've got the ear of someone high up there) to the press. And its just a big coincidence that so many of these "sightings" are not only around air force bases but indistinguishable from once-classified jets.

        On top of it, you have a lot of opportunists who are ready to make (and have made) a mint from "believers." The stories start plausible enough and then the worst stereotypi
        • I agree there are a lot of problems associated with this topic. All the junk you mentioned tends to drown out the credible reports that warrant investigation. It requires discernment and careful work to separate the junk from the important stuff.

          But I guarantee anyone that if they spend a little time looking at the credible stuff you will see a core reality to the whole thing. Too many military officers are saying their colleagues are lying about what they have witnessed. Too many documents from when the
        • On top of it, you have a lot of opportunists who are ready to make (and have made) a mint from "believers."

          Sure, there's a lot of hokum spread about. But how is that different than say, music and the Music Industry(tm)? Or religion and the, well, Religion Industry(tm)? It's regretful, though not really surprising. So some (many) people 'believe' without fully contemplating the known facts. It makes it difficult to get serious work done but it doesn't erase the value of the matter to those of us who take

          • The scientific community are really the only ones who have failed to take up the challenge of what the reality of the situation represents. The Condon Report basically killed of any interest from professional scientists, despite the fact that the conclusion differed widely from the body of the evidence presented, despite the fact that Condon clearly demonstrated the conclusion was scripted from the start, despite the fact that the study received unacknowledged input from the CIA, and despite the fact that t
            • Too true. But the great, unwashed mass of 'believers' makes it a difficult subject to justify.

              I'm confident that more and more will be recorded and thus, bring it out into the open some more. Unfortunately, a) most of those will be digital and, b) most of those will be from someone's cell phone. So it may still be a while.

              Or some flash-mob savant will see something and tell two friends and cause one hell of a lot of people to look up.

              • Or some flash-mob savant will see something and tell two friends and cause one hell of a lot of people to look up.

                That has already occurred on multiple occasions. Belgium, the Mexico City eclipse sighting, etc. Unfortunately such events continue to be ignored by the American media.
                • I remember seeing that video from Mexico City* with the saucer moving between some apt. buildings on the news. Then nothing else. Later there was some talk about it being considered to be faked. Dunno myself. But what i'm getting at is that mutiple videos/stills from all sorts of vantage points is going to pretty difficult to ignore. Then, it doesn't matter that it's digital. As long as you've got some quality stuff it'd be all over the news, with all the other shots backing it up.

                  i'm talking about an eve

    • The military did experiment with saucer-shaped aircraft [wikipedia.org] back in the 40s and 50s.
    • For interested /. readers, this is a brief list of some of the major people (military and civilian) who are known to have given convincing testimony to the reality of unusual craft (UFOs) they have witnessed. It is by no means exhaustive. Most of them have stated in some way or another that a percentage of craft encountered were definitely unknown to the Air Force and were not discussed because of that. Many also testified that they received orders to keep their mouths shut about it. Thankfully, they felt i
    • It is interesting to note that Gordon Cooper alleged in a book he wrote a few years ago, "Leap of Faith," that he encountered 'flying saucers' landing and flying while working as a military test pilot in the early 1950s, and that footage he had taken of these saucers was confiscated from him.

      And how long after the release of that book was he murd... er, died?
    • Here's a short article [space.com] about that. He wasn't a test pilot then, afaik. That was when he was stationed in Germany. The film was shot later, while on the ground at Edwards AFB. He denies seeing any from space, however.

    • Cooper's not the only astronaut to tell strange tales.

      Edgar Mitchell claimed that he was one with the universe or some such crap on his return from the moon on Apollo 14. Since then he has become involved in pseudo-science/religion.

      After James Irwin finished his moon trip on Apollo 15, he founded some religious organization and went on trips to Mt. Ararat in Turkey to try to find Noah's Ark.

  • by mangu (126918) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:40PM (#10436113)
    The same day that the first hobbyist rocket went to space was the first day an astronaut died of old age...
  • by stucooper (813923) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:49PM (#10436154)
    I'm reading Gene Kranz's book "Failure is Not an Option" and there's a nice mention early on about how he gets a lift from the airport to the base by some madman in sunglasses and an open necked shirt who gets saluted by the guards at the gate and drives 100 miles per hour and faster. Wondering why civilian speedsters get saluted at the gate, Kranz realises he's met his first Mercury astronaut, who was in fact Gordo Cooper.
    • I was at a conference a couple of years ago, and the guest speaker was Gene Kranz, with an assist from Fred Haise. Fascinating presentation, mostly centered on the Apollo 13 mission. They did autographs after the show and I asked him, if President Bush were to stand up and say, "we're putting a man on Mars in 10 years" could we do it? (this was before Bush actually said that). He thought that we could, but we'd need to significantly improve the schools because (in his opinion) we're not cranking out enou
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:55PM (#10436185)
    From the end of the film "The Right Stuff" based on the book by Tom Wolfe. Not written as an epitaph, but it fits.

    On that glorious day in May 1963
    Gordo Cooper went higher, farther, and faster than any other American:
    22 complete orbits around the world.
    He was the last American ever to go into space alone
    and for a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became
    the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen.


    Godspeed Gordo Cooper
    • The Right Stuff was one of the greatest movies of my childhood. I really enjoyed Hanks and Spielberg's From the Earth to the Moon, but I'll always have a special place in my heart for The Right Stuff.

      Just a quick question: how many Americans have gone into space alone since Gordo, now?

      The two guys from SpaceShipOne, right. Anyone else?
      • According to astronautix.com [astronautix.com], the pilot on the following flights was awarded astronaut wings under the FAI definition:

        19 July 1963 X-15 Flight 90

        22 August 1963 X-15 Flight 91.
        Both those flights were after Cooper, so there was one other American who went into space alone (both flights were by Joseph Walker).

        In addition, there were 10 other flights which were awarded wings under the USAF definition, but not under the FAI definition of 100km.

  • Godspeed, Gordo Cooper.
  • Astronaught (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ssummer (533461)
    Today we gained a new astronaut and also lost one. Anyone know exactly how many people have made it into space? (living and dead [not counting Carl Sagan])?
    • When you start counting, don't forget some of the X-15 missions qualified under FAI and USAF rules as being 'space flight'. Pilots were accorded astronaut wings.

      And you probably can't find the actual number of Soviet cosmonauts. Evidently, a couple(?) went up, but didn't come back down.

  • Stupîd media (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@gmai l . c om> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:18PM (#10436280) Journal
    All the media are raving [imdb.com] about the death of Janet Leigh [imdb.com] (whose name I never heard uttered before today) but not a single word about Gordo.

    Stupid media. Always going after the useless thing.

  • According to NASA [nasa.gov] he was the first astronaut to make two orbital flights.
  • St Peter: Who is the Best Gatekeeper in the World?

    Cooper: I dunno. Who IS the Best Gatekeeper in the World?

    St Peter: You're looking at him....
    • Are you making a joke? Or are you serious? I want to know so I can decide whether to add you to my friends list, or the one for foes :P
    • For anybody reading this: This is based on the movie The Right Stuff, in which Gordo Cooper would ask, "Who's the best pilot you ever saw?" and, when his listener was stumped, would say, "You're looking at him."

      One would presume that, after St. Peter delivered that last line, Gordo would bust out laughing, and St. Peter would wave him through, saying, "Go on, Gordo, Al and Gus are waitin' for ya..."

  • by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:38PM (#10436365)
    Astronaut Bio [nasa.gov]

    NAME: Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. (Colonel, USAF, Ret.)

    NASA Astronaut (former)

    PERSONAL DATA: Born March 6, 1927 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. His hobbies include treasure hunting, archeology, racing, flying, skiing, boating, hunting and fishing.

    EDUCATION: Attended primary and secondary schools in Shawnee, Oklahoma and Murray, Kentucky; received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in 1956; recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree from Oklahoma City University in 1967.

    ORGANIZATIONS: The Society of Experimental Test Pilots, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, The American Astronautical Society, The Blue Lodge Masons, The York Rite Masons, The Scottish Rite Masons, The Royal Order of Jesters, The Sojourners, The Rotary Club, The Daedalians, The Confederate Air Force, The Boy Scouts of America, The Girl Scouts of America.

    SPECIAL HONORS: The Air Force Legion of Merit, The Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, The Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross Cluster, The NASA Exceptional Service Medal, The NASA Distinguished Service Medal, USAF Command Astronaut Wings, The Collier Trophy, The Harmon Trophy, The Scottish Rite 33, The York Rite Knight of the Purple Cross, The DeMolay Legion of Honor, The John F. Kennedy Trophy, The Ivan E. Kincheloe Trophy, The Air Force Association Trophy, The Primus Trophy, The John Montgomery Trophy, The General Thomas E. White Trophy, The Association of Aviation Writers Award, The University of Hawaii Regents Medal, The Columbus Medal, The Silver Antelope, The Sport Fishing Society of Spain Award.

    EXPERIENCE: Cooper, an Air Force Colonel, received an Army commission after completing three years of schooling at the University of Hawaii. He transferred his commission to the Air Force and was placed on active duty by that service in 1949 and given flight training.

    His next assignment was with the 86th Fighter Bomber Group in Munich, Germany, where he flew F-84s and F-86s for four years. While in Munich, he also attended the European Extension of the University of Maryland night school.

    He returned to the United States and, after two years of study at AFIT, received his degree. He then reported to the Air Force Experimental Flight Test School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and, upon graduating in 1957, was assigned as an aeronautical engineer and test pilot in the Performance Engineering Branch of the Flight Test Division at Edwards. His responsibilities there included the flight testing of experimental fighter aircraft.

    He has logged more than 7,000 hours flying time--4,000 hours in jet aircraft. He has flown all types of Commercial and General aviation airplane and helicopters.

    NASA EXPERIENCE: Colonel Cooper was selected as a Mercury astronaut in April 1959.

    On May 15-16, 1963, he piloted the "Faith 7" spacecraft on a 22-orbit mission which concluded the operational phase of Project Mercury. During the 34 hours and 20 minutes of flight, Faith 7 attained an apogee of 166 statue miles and a speed of 17,546 miles per hour and traveled 546,167 statue miles.

    Cooper served as command pilot of the 8-day 120-revolution Gemini 5 mission which began on August 21, 1965. It was on this flight that he and pilot Charles Conrad established a new space endurance record by traveling a distance of 3,312,993 miles in an elapsed time of 190 hours and 56 minutes. Cooper also became the first man to make a second orbital flight and thus won for the United States the lead in man-hours in space by accumulating a total of 225 hours and 15 minutes.

    He served as backup command pilot for Gemini 12 and as backup commander for Apollo X.

    Colonel Cooper has logged 222 hours in space.

    He retired from the Air Force and NASA in 1970.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:40PM (#10436375)

    The movie The Right Stuff [imdb.com] is one of my all time favorite flicks... I remember seeing it in the theater when I was a kid. (I've seen it several times since then, of course.)

    Gordo (played by Dennis Quaid) steals the show at the end of the movie! Here's the movie's narrator's outcue, which, combined with the imagery of Dennis Quaid blasting into space and Bill Conti's awesome musical score, is one of the all-time coolest moments in cinema:

    "The Mercury program was over.

    Four years later, astronaut Gus Grissom was killed, along with astronauts White and Chaffey, when fire swept through their Apollo capsule.

    But on that glorious day in May, 1963, Gordo cooper went higher, farther, and faster than any other American.

    Twenty-two complete orbits around the world.

    He was the last American ever to go into Space alone.

    For a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen!"


    You can read a transcript of the entire film here...

    http://www2.ice.usp.ac.jp/wklinger/film/scripts/ri ghtstuff-s.txt [usp.ac.jp]
  • Godspeed, Gordo (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WCMI92 (592436) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:47PM (#10436408) Homepage
    After seeing "The Right Stuff", and hearing my dad (who met him) tell me about meeting Gordo Cooper when he was an elementary student in Eastern Ky, he was always my favorite of the Mercury Seven.

    He was truly one with the "right stuff".

    Like the rest of the original 7, he was not only a fantastic pilot, he was also a scientist, and a damn good one.

    It's ironic that on the day we lose the last American to go into space alone, we send another American into space alone.

    • It's ironic that on the day we lose the last American to go into space alone, we send another American into space alone.

      Shouldn't that read:
      "It's ironic that on the day we lose the last human to go into space alone, we send another human into space alone."

      Patriotism is for those that need to believe they are better than all others, based solely on geography and ethnocentrism.
      • Re:Godspeed, Gordo (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mordaximus (566304)
        Shouldn't that read: "It's ironic that on the day we lose the last human to go into space alone, we send another human into space alone."

        It would be a nice sentiment but a very false statement. Yang Liwei did a solo space flight for China in 2003, and AFAIK is still alive. Likewise Vladimir Shatalov of Russia is still alive I believe.

  • Met him is 2001 (Score:3, Informative)

    by rasper99 (247555) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:49PM (#10436420)
    I met Gordo in July 2001 when he visted Rocket Guy. http://www.rocketguy.com/rocket/jul172001.html [rocketguy.com] He was a fasinating person and still had a sparkle in his eye when talking about the old days. Even got to go to lunch with him when the TV crew took him to lunch. I miss the good old days when we had heroes like him.
  • by ehintz (10572) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @12:32AM (#10436638) Homepage
    I was fortunate enough to attend the memorial service for Alan Shephard at JSC in Houston back in '98... One of my fondest memories of the service was Gordo's eulogy, in which he said the following:
    "We raced many miles in identical Corvettes," Cooper told the crowd, then looked straight ahead, as if joking to his late friend: "I'm sorry Al, but I never told you that I changed the ratio in the differential. You really weren't any less a driver, it's just that I cheated a little."

    "Now you're up there in that big hangar in the sky," Cooper said. "We miss you, Al. We'll be there before long and we'll try some of that flying ourselves."
    I hope your flying is good Gordo.
  • I wonder -
    Is this the first American astronaut to die of natural causes?
  • kind of OT but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chegosaurus (98703) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:13AM (#10437394) Homepage
    Before long there could be no one alive who has set foot anywhere other than Earth. That's damning.

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