OTD In Space – May 15: Last Flight Of NASA's Mercury Program

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On May 15, 1963, NASA astronaut Gordon Cooper launched on the sixth and final crewed flight of the Mercury Program.

This was also the last time a NASA astronaut launched on a solo mission to space. Cooper lifted off from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas rocket booster. He rode inside a capsule called Faith 7, which he piloted for 22 orbits around the Earth. The entire mission lasted 34 hours and 20 minutes and was the longest flight of the Mercury program. Cooper performed 11 experiments in orbit. One of them involved deploying a flashing ball in space and tracking it. Cooper also became the first person to sleep in space. When it came time to head home, Faith 7 started having some problems. It started giving faulty readings, and NASA decided that the auto-pilot system could not longer be trusted. So, Cooper had to pilot it manually. This made him the first astronaut manually fly a space capsule for the entire reentry process. Not only was his landing smooth, but it was also the most accurate landing in the history of the Mercury program. He splashed down just 4 miles away from the recovery ship that was waiting for him in the Pacific Ocean.