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.
He used his exceptional engineering and piloting skills to take charge of his flight when a fault in the capsule's electrical system occurred. He aligned the capsule and piloted it to a near-perfect splashdown near the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge.
Cooper later made a return to space in the Gemini program and continued to work with space- and rocket-related projects for many years.
Gordon Cooper reached these points during the Mercury mission:
First Oklahoman in space.
Last American to be launched into space alone.
Longest Mercury flight at 22 orbits; 34 hours, 19 minutes, 49 seconds; 546,167 miles.
First American to sleep in space (He also fell asleep on the launch pad as the countdown dragged on).
First American astronaut to control a major portion of his flight after an electrical system failure.