Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: May 16, 2013
The Senate honored the life and accomplishments of Gordon Cooper
Wednesday on the
50th anniversary of his space flight on May 15, 1963 with Senate
Pictured (L-R): Dr. Tom Terry, Judith Michner, Shawnee mayor Wes
Mainord and Sen. Ron Sharp.
Senate honors life of astronaut Gordon Cooper
The Senate honored the life and accomplishments of
Oklahoma’s son, Gordon Cooper Wednesday on the 50th anniversary
of his spaceflight. Sen. Ron
Sharp presented Senate Resolution 34 declaring the day as “Gordon
Cooper Day” in Oklahoma.
“Gordon Cooper was an American hero who forever changed how
our country looked at space travel. He was a brilliant man who was
dedicated to his career and fearless in helping move the industry
forward,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “As an educator, I
admire him because he helped excite our nation and youth about science,
aeronautics, astronomy and so many other areas. He was a great person
with an outstanding career and I was so proud to honor one of Shawnee’s
and Oklahoma’s sons.”
Gordon Cooper was an American aeronautical engineer, test pilot
and one of the seven original astronauts in Project Mercury, the
first manned space program of the United States.
He was born in Shawnee on March 6, 1927 and grew up in the community.
He received his commission to the U.S. Air Force in 1949 and received
his first flight assignment in 1950 at Landstuhl Air Base in West
Germany where he flew F-84 Thunderjets and F-86 Sabres. He completed
his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the Air
Force Institute of Technology in Ohio in 1957 before being assigned
to the Experimental Flight Test School at Edwards Air Force Base
in California. After graduation, he was posted to the Flight Test
Engineering Division at Edwards, where he served as a test pilot
and project manager testing the F-102A and F-106B. Cooper logged
more than 7,000 hours of flight time, with 4,000 hours in jet aircraft.
He flew all types of commercial and general aviation airplanes and
While at Edwards, he went to Washington, D.C. for a NASA briefing
on Project Mercury and was selected from 109 pilots to become the
youngest of the first seven American astronauts. 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 at just over 34 hours traveling 546,167 miles at 17,547
mph. He was the first American astronaut to sleep not only in orbit
but on the launch pad.
Two years later, he flew as command pilot of Gemini 5 on an eight-day,
120-orbit mission with Pete Conrad. The two astronauts set a new
space endurance record by traveling a distance of just over 3.3
million miles in nearly 191 hours, showing that astronauts could
survive in space for the length of time necessary to go from the
Earth to the Moon and back.
Cooper was the first astronaut to make a second orbital flight.
He later served as backup command pilot for Gemini 12 and Apollo
10 but was not selected as commander of Apollo 13. Colonel Cooper
retired from NASA and the Air Force in July 1970 having flown 222
hours in space.
Sen. Sharp presented the resolution to Shawnee Mayor Wes Mainord.
“What an honor for us to receive this from such a distinguished
group and from our Senator Ron Sharp,” said Mainord. “On
behalf of the 30,000 people in Shawnee and the residents of Pottawatomie
County, I want to say thank you for recognition of one of the finest
people to come through our city. It’s a great honor for you
to bestow this upon Gordon Cooper and our city.”
Mainord was joined by Judith Michner, a retired member of the Oklahoma
Historical Society and present board member on the Pottawatomie
County Historical Society, who created the display over Cooper that
is located at the Gordon Cooper Technology Center.
“I’m so privileged to be a part of this project for
the Pottawatomie County Historical Society,” said Michner.
“I was very fascinated by the research I was doing on Colonel
Cooper. One of the stories I found so interesting and that demonstrated
so clearly the man’s ability as a pilot was that he was the
first to have to manage a manual re-entry from a space flight. The
computers couldn’t handle the re-entry - something went wrong,
so he calmly took over the controls and landed that capsule within
one mile of the original touchdown site, which I think is an incredible
feat. I’m so grateful to be able to be a part of this project
and thank you so much for your recognition of our wonderful Pottawatomie
Also present was Dr. Tom Terry with the Pottawatomie County Historical
Society. He explained that Michner’s display was sponsored
by the Shawnee Junior Service League. It is currently located at
the Gordon Cooper Technology Center and will be on display at the
Shawnee Library next month. It will then be traveling to various
schools throughout the county for the remainder of the year.
For more information, contact:
Sen. Sharp: (405) 521-5539