Astronaut Gordon Cooper, Jr. Dies

Wednesday, October 06 2004 @ 12:29 am EDT

Contributed by: Dale

Gordon Cooper Jr., the astronaut who piloted the sixth and last flight of the Mercury program and later commanded Gemini 5, died earlier today at his home in Ventura, Calif. He was 77 years old.

"As one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, Gordon Cooper was one of the faces of America's fledgling space program. He truly portrayed the right stuff, and he helped gain the backing and enthusiasm of the American public, so critical for the spirit of exploration. My thoughts and prayers are with Gordon's family during this difficult time," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe.

The youngest of the original seven astronauts, Cooper's flight in his Faith 7 capsule stretched the capabilities of the Mercury spacecraft to the limits. The mission, May 15 and 16, 1963, lasted more than 34 hours and 22 orbits. That was more than three times the longest U.S. human space flight until that time, and far exceeded the initial design capability of the capsule. During his flight, Cooper also became the first astronaut to sleep in space.

Check out the full story at: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/features/cooper_obit.html

Image Left: Cooper in the "white room," waiting for test activities to resume in preparation for his Mercury launch in May of 1963. Photo credit: NASA.

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