March 6, 1927 – Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper, Jr., is born
Gordon ‘Gordo’ Cooper was one of the original seven Mercury program U.S. astronauts. He was born on March 6th, 1927, the same day as female Russian cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, though she was born in 1937. Cooper died on October 4, 2004. He flew on the Mercury-Atlas 9 and Gemini 5 NASA missions.
“Cooper was launched into space on May 15, 1963 aboard the Mercury-Atlas 9 (Faith 7) spacecraft, the last Mercury mission. He orbited the earth 22 times and logged more time in space than all five previous Mercury astronauts combined – 34 hours, 19 minutes and 49 seconds, traveling 546,167 miles (878,971 km) at 17,547 mph (28,239 km/h), pulling a maximum of 7.6 g (74.48 m/s²). Cooper achieved an altitude of 165.9 statute miles (267 km) at apogee. He also gained the distinction of becoming the first American astronaut to sleep not only in orbit but on the launch pad during a countdown.”
“I know there are lots of people who say, ‘Why go any further in space?’ When Columbus was halfway through his voyage, the same people said, ‘Why go any further?’ And they want to stop now. I believe the United States of America is committed in this decade to be the first in space, and the only way we are going to be first in space is to work as hard as we can here and across the country, and support not only major Cooper, but all who come after him.”
– President John F. Kennedy, in a speech May 1963, as cited in Into that Silent Sea (p. 279-80).