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Table of contents

It isn't fair to keep this guy hanging around if we're not gonna fly him. Project Mercury had begun with a goal of ultimately flying an orbit, hour mission, known as the manned one-day mission MODM. Project Mercury still remained years behind the Soviet Union's space program, which had already flown a orbit mission in Vostok 3. When Atlas D, the booster designated for MA-9, first emerged from the factory in San Diego on January 30, , it failed to pass inspection and was returned to the factory.

Williams over last-minute changes to his pressure suit to insert a new medical probe. They decided not to, but not to let Cooper know immediately. Kennedy had intervened to prevent his removal.

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  4. At the Even Hour: Confessions and Regressions;

Cooper was launched into space on May 15, , aboard the Faith 7 spacecraft, for what turned out to be the last of the Project Mercury missions. Because MA-9 would orbit over nearly every part of the world from 33 degrees north to 33 degrees south, [35] a total of 28 ships, aircraft, and 18, servicemen were assigned to support the mission.

Cooper achieved an altitude of He was the first American astronaut to sleep, not only in orbit, [2] [36] but on the launch pad during a countdown. Toward the end of the Faith 7 flight there were mission-threatening technical problems. During the 19th orbit, the capsule had a power failure. The clock and then the gyroscopes failed, but the radio, which was connected directly to the battery, remained working, allowing Cooper to communicate with the mission controllers.

Cooper turned to his understanding of star patterns, took manual control of the tiny capsule and successfully estimated the correct pitch for re-entry into the atmosphere.

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  • Cooper drew lines on the capsule window to help him check his orientation before firing the re-entry rockets. Then I fired my retrorockets at the right time and landed right by the carrier. Faith 7 splashed down 4 miles 6.

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    Faith 7 was hoisted on board by a helicopter with Cooper still inside. Once on deck he used the explosive bolts to blow open the hatch.

    Postflight inspections and analyses studied the causes and nature of the electrical problems that had plagued the final hours of the flight, but no fault was found with the performance of the pilot. MA-9 was the last of the Project Mercury flights. Webb on June 22, Project Mercury was followed by Project Gemini , which took its name from the fact that it carried two men instead of just one. Pete Conrad , one of the nine astronauts selected in was designated as his co-pilot, with Neil Armstrong and Elliot See as their respective backups.

    At the end of the successful test, the erector could not be raised, and the two astronauts had to be retrieved with a cherry picker , an escape device that Cooper had devised for Project Mercury and insisted be retained for Gemini. Cooper and Conrad wanted to name their spacecraft Lady Bird after Lady Bird Johnson , the First Lady of the United States , but Webb turned down their request; he wanted to "depersonalize" the space program.

    The patch was intended to commemorate all the hundreds of people directly involved, not just the astronauts.

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    The patch was worn on the right breast of the astronauts' uniforms below their nameplates and opposite the NASA emblems worn on the left. The mission was postponed from August 9 to 19 to give Cooper and Conrad more time to train, and was then delayed for two days due to a storm. Gemini 5 was launched at on August 21, Cooper's biggest concern was the fuel cell. To make it last eight days, Cooper intended to operate it at a low pressure, but when it started to dip too low the Flight Controllers advised him to switch on the oxygen heater.

    While MA-9 had become uncomfortably warm, Gemini 5 became cold. There were also problems with the Orbit Attitude and Maneuvering System thrusters, which became erratic, and two of them failed completely. Gemini 5 was originally intended to practice orbital rendezvous with an Agena target vehicle , but this had been deferred to a later mission owing to problems with the Agena.

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    This raised confidence for achieving rendezvous with an actual spacecraft on subsequent missions, and ultimately in lunar orbit. Cooper and Conrad were able to carry out all but one of the scheduled experiments, most of which were related to orbital photography.

    The mission was cut short by the appearance of Hurricane Betsy in the planned recovery area. Cooper fired the retrorockets on the th orbit. A computer error had set the Earth's rotation at degrees per day whereas it is actually The difference was significant in a spacecraft.

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    The error would have been larger had Cooper not recognized the problem when the reentry gauge indicated that they were too high, and attempted to compensate by increasing the bank angle from 53 to 90 degrees to the left to increase the drag. Cooper became the first astronaut to make a second orbital flight. The next year Cooper and Grissom had an entry in the race, but were disqualified after failing to make a mandatory meeting. The night before the race, NASA management ordered him to withdraw due to the dangers involved.

    Cooper was selected as backup Commander for the May Apollo 10 mission. This placed him in line for the position of Commander of Apollo 13 , according to the usual crew rotation procedure established by Slayton as Director of Flight Crew Operations.

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    This mission subsequently became Apollo 14 to give Shepard more time to train. Slayton alleged that Cooper had developed a lax attitude towards training during the Gemini program; for the Gemini 5 mission, other astronauts had to coax him into the simulator. Slayton noted that Cooper had a slim chance of receiving the Apollo 13 command if he did an outstanding job as backup commander of Apollo 10, but Slayton felt that Cooper did not.

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    They remained married until his death in After leaving NASA, 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. He was president of GCR, which designed, tested and raced championship cars, conducted tire tests for race cars, and worked on installation of turbine engines on cars.

    He served on the board of Teletest, which designed and installed advanced telemetry systems; Doubloon, which designed and built treasure hunting equipment; and Cosmos, which conducted archeological exploration projects. As part owner and race project manager of the Profile Race Team from to , Cooper designed and raced high performance boats.

    Between and he served as a technical consultant at Republic Corp. He was also a technical consultant for Canaveral International, Inc. This cinetheodolite system could 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 , with both still and motion picture cameras. According to Cooper's accounts, when they returned later that morning they reported that they had seen a "strange-looking, saucer-like" aircraft that did not make a sound either on landing or take-off.

    Cooper recalled that these men, who saw experimental aircraft on a regular basis as part of their job, were clearly unnerved. He called a special Pentagon number to call to report such incidents, and was instructed to have their film developed, but to make no prints of it, and send it in to the Pentagon right away in a locked courier pouch.

    Cooper claimed that the quality of the photography was excellent, and what he saw was exactly what Bittick and Gettys had described to him. He expected that there would be a follow-up investigation, since an aircraft of unknown origin had landed at a classified military installation, but never heard about the incident again.

    Cooper claimed until his death that the U. He pointed out that there were hundreds of reports made by his fellow pilots, many coming from military jet pilots sent to respond to radar or visual sightings. In later life, Cooper developed Parkinson's disease. His death occurred on the 47th anniversary of the Sputnik 1 launch and the same day that SpaceShipOne made its second official qualifying flight. The capsule carrying the ashes fell back toward Earth as planned; it was lost in mountainous landscape. The search was obstructed by bad weather, but after a few weeks the capsule was found, and the ashes it carried were returned to the families.

    Kennedy Trophy, [56] the Iven C. Montgomery Award , the General Thomas D. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 11, Cooper's Mercury astronaut career and appealing personality were depicted in the film The Right Stuff , in which he was portrayed by Dennis Quaid. Cooper worked closely with the production company, and every line uttered by Quaid was reportedly attributable to Cooper's recollection. Quaid met with Cooper before the casting call and learned his mannerisms.