GORDON COOPER Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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Name: Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr.                                                       
Born: 6 March 1927 Shawnee, Oklahoma                                                 
Died: 4 October 2004 Ventura, California                                             
Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr., also noted as Gordo Cooper, (6 March 1927 - 4 October     
2004) was an American astronaut. Cooper was one of the seven original astronauts     
in Project Mercury, the first manned-space effort by the United States.             
Cooper was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He grew up there and in Murray, Kentucky       
where he attended public schools. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America and     
achieved the second highest rank of Life Scout. Cooper served in the Marine         
Corps in 1945 and 1946, then received an Army commission after completing three     
years of coursework at the University of Hawaii. Cooper met his first wife Trudy     
(the only wife of a Mercury astronaut with a private pilot's license) while in       
Hawaii and they married in 1947. Cooper transferred his commission to the Air       
Force in 1949, was placed on active duty and received flight training at Perrin     
AFB, Texas and Williams AFB, Arizona.                                               
Cooper's first flight assignment came in 1950 at Landstuhl, West Germany where       
he flew F-84 Thunderjets and F-86 Sabres for four years. While in Germany he         
also attended the European Extension of the University of Maryland. Returning to     
the United States, he studied for two years at the Air Force Institute of           
Technology in Ohio and in 1957 completed his bachelor's degree in aerospace         
engineering. Cooper was then assigned to the Experimental Flight Test School at     
Edwards Air Force Base in California and after graduation 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.[1] 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 helicopters.                           
While at Edwards Cooper was intrigued to read an announcement saying a contract     
had been awarded to McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis, Missouri to build a space       
capsule. Shortly after this he was called to Washington, D.C. for a NASA             
briefing on Project Mercury and the part astronauts would play in it. Cooper         
went through the selection process with the other 109 pilots and was not             
surprised when he was accepted as one of the first seven American astronauts.