L. Gordon Cooper was the first American astronaut to sleep in space. His historic slumber occurred aboard his MA-9 flight, the last Mercury mission.
The MA-9 mission helped NASA learn about the effects of sending astronauts into space for longer time spans. At over 34 hours, Cooper spent more time in space than all of the previous Mercury astronauts combined. In all, he would orbit the Earth 22 times.
Photos from the celebration of L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.’s successful MA-9 Mission. Presentation of Distinguished Service Medal. May 21, 1963.
-L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. family with President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Alan Shephard, Leverett Saltonstall, Everett Dirksen.
-President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.
-from the LBJ Library
More on L. Gordon Cooper from NASA
Alan Shepard - First American in Space
On May 5, 1961, NASA launched the first American into space. Alan Shepard took his historic ride in a Freedom 7 capsule, powered by a Redstone missile rocket. Shepard traveled to an altitude of 116 miles and returned to Earth in 15 minutes. From his capsule, Shepard saw the curvature of the Earth, and described a view never seen by any American before.
On May 8, Shepard traveled to the White House to receive a NASA Distinguished Service Medal from President John F. Kennedy. Three weeks later, JFK would announce to a joint session of Congress the goal of sending an American safely to the Moon by the end of the decade.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Mercury-Redstone 3 flight, so as you enjoy your first Saturday in May, look up to the skies and raise your glass to Alan Shepard - first American in space. Happy weekend!