Gordon Cooper, American astronaut, c 1963.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper rocketed into space in his Faith 7 capsule on May 15, 1963. Cooper's Mercury flight set a US endurance record at the time, and he became the first astronaut to sleep in space during his 34-hour, 22-orbit mission. In 1965, Cooper commanded the Gemini 5 mission alongside Pete Conrad, establishing a new space endurance record at the time, travelling 3,312,993 miles in 190 hours and 56 minutes. Norris Gray, the NASA Fire Chief and Emergency Preparedness Officier during the Mercury days said of the space pioneer: 'He never said "you can't do it." He was gung ho on everything'. Cooper, the youngest of the Original Seven Mercury astronauts, died in 2004 at the age of 77.