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Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr. is Born

Today in Masonic History Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr. is born in 1927.

Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr. was an American astronaut.

Cooper was born on March 6th, 1927 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. In his youth he was active in the Boy Scouts of America. He attended local Shawnee schools, Jefferson Elementary School and Shawnee High School. He graduated high school from Murray High School when his father was called back into military service in the middle of Cooper's senior year. He attended two months at Murray High School, graduating in 1945.

After high school, Cooper looked into joining the military. When he discovered the Army and Navy flying schools were not taking any candidates, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a reservist. He attempted to get on the list to go to the United States Naval Academy and was not able to get in.

After being released from active service with other reservists, Cooper moved to Hawaii where he attended the University of Hawaii. In 1949, he had his commission transferred to the United States Air Force and began active duty at Perrin Air Force base in Texas. He was then transferred in 1950 to an Air Base in West Germany. Over the next 6 years he attended three different Universities and receive a degree in Aerospace Engineering.

In 1956 Cooper was assigned to the USAF Experimental Flight Test School at Edwards Air Force base. After he graduated he was assigned to the Flight Test Engineering Division at Edwards.

While at Edwards, Cooper was intrigued by the announcement McDonnell Aircraft had been awarded a contract to build a space capsule. Shortly after, Cooper was called to Washington, D.C. where he was tested with 109 other pilots to become one of the seven Mercury astronauts. Cooper was the youngest of the seven astronauts chosen. Cooper was assigned the last Mercury mission and was launched into space on May 15th, 1963. He orbited the earth 22 times and had more time in space than all of the other six Mercury astronauts combined. On his 19th orbit his capsule, Faith 7, lost power. Cooper was forced to fly the capsule manually. He had to calculate his trajectory for reentry and perform other complex math equations to ensure he properly entered the Earth's atmosphere. His calculations put him very close to the aircraft carrier assigned to pick him up. Prior to this point in Cooper's flight, the Mercury Astronauts were seen as merely passengers. Chuck Yeager referred to the seven Mercury astronauts as "Spam in a Can" due to their passenger status.

Cooper went up again as part of the Gemini program. He flew with Pete Conrad on Gemini 5. The two astronauts set a space endurance record remaining in orbit for more than 190 hours. Their flight set some of the ground work for the Apollo mission proving men could survive in space for a time equivalent to traveling from the Earth to the Moon and back.

Cooper was also a part of the Apollo program. He never got a chance to land on the moon. He retired from the Air Force in 1970. He went on to work in various jobs in the private sector. This included working for the Disney corporation as a Vice President of Research and Development for Epcot.

Cooper passed away on October 4th, 2004 from heart failure. At the time of his death he also suffered from Parkinson's disease.

Cooper was a member of Carbondale Lodge No. 82 in Carbondale, Colorado.