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'Gordo' Cooper is best known as one of NASA's 'Original Seven' astronauts. Born on March 6, 1927, in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Cooper was eventually connected with the Marine Corps, then the Army (via ROTC while at the University of Hawaii), and finally the Air Force. He continued his training while in the Air Force, recieving his bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Engineering in August of 1956, and attended the Experimental Flight Test School at Edwards Air Force Base, in California. Upon his graduation, Cooper worked in the Fighter Section of the Flight Test Engineering Division at Edwards before seeking a position with the newly-formed Project Mercury.

On May 15-16, 1963 Cooper piloted the "Faith 7" spacecraft on its 34 hour, 20 minute flight, making 22 orbits of the earth. This mission, designated MA-9, was the last Mercury mission, and successfully tested the effects of relatively extended stays in space on the human body (Cooper was in space longer during this mission than all other Americans combined, at that time). Due to electrical problems, Cooper was forced to fire his retro-rockets manually during his re-entry--I seem to recall that this was exceptional, because he landed closer to his intended landing spot than any previous astronaut.

Cooper was also one of two astronauts to fly the Gemini GT-5 mission (the other being Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr.) from August 21-29, 1965. Intended to test the feasibility of having astronauts in space for the amount of time a mission to the moon would take, GT-5 lasted 7 days, 22 hours, 55 minutes and 14 seconds, and completed 120 orbits of the earth. Difficulties with the fuel-cell heater caused the landing to be off by 103 miles, but the mission was otherwise successful.

Cooper retired from NASA and the Air Force as a Colonel in 1970 to enter the private sector. His ventures included founding an aerospace consulting firm, Gordon Cooper and Associates, Inc., and working as the vice president for research and development for Disney.


sources:
http://history.nasa.gov/40thmerc7/cooper.htm
http://www.knowsouthernhistory.net/Biographies/gordo_cooper
https://www.patrick.af.mil/45OG/Cooper.htm
http://www.wilhelm-aerospace.org/Space/Astronautics/cooper.html

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