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Gordon Cooper became first Oklahoman in space May 15, 1963

Don Gammill Modified: April 22, 2014 at 3:31 pm •  Published: May 15, 2014
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photo - Astronaut Gordon Cooper is all smiles as he prepares to leave his Faith 7 Mercury space capsule after his record-breaking flight. (NASA photo)
Astronaut Gordon Cooper is all smiles as he prepares to leave his Faith 7 Mercury space capsule after his record-breaking flight. (NASA photo)

Leroy Gordon Cooper was a gifted scientist, an exceptionally talented engineer/pilot and an example of one of the best and most successful astronauts in early space endeavers.

He traveled into American history in 1959 by being selected one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, then added to his standing on his first journey into space, May 15, 1963, aboard Mercury Faith 7.

Shortly before 5 that morning, Cooper was helped into his spacesuit in Hangar S at Cape Canaveral, Fla. He was transported to Launch Pad 14, where he was escorted on a gantry elevator to the top of the Atlas rocket and helped into his snug seat in his capsule.

The long countdown was moving along when technicians noted his medical readings had changed. He had fallen asleep on the launch pad. But he awoke as time arrived for the mission's beginning.

Cooper became the first Oklahoma to journey into space, overall the 10th man and sixth American to make such a flight. His 22 earth orbits gave him more space flight time than all other previous American astronauts combined.

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