Sunday, April 29, 2007


Although James "Scotty" Doohan is getting all the headlines for having his ashes blasted into space, also aboard that rocket were the ashes of Leroy Gordon Cooper.

A little perspective: Scotty was an imaginary spaceman. Gordo Cooper was the real thing, one of the original Mercury astronauts and, the first Okie in space.

He piloted the last flight of the Mercury program (Faith 7, in 1963) and in 1965 commanded Gemini 5, becoming the first man to make a second orbital flight.

From his NASA obit:

Cooper and Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. flew the troubled and suspenseful third flight of the Gemini program in August 1965. The goal of the mission was to prove astronauts could survive in space long enough to perform a lunar mission, which takes eight days. During their eight-day mission, they experienced a number of problems with power systems, thruster fuel, venting gas that caused the spacecraft to roll, and more in a seemingly unending series. But they stayed in orbit for almost 191 hours, 122 orbits in nearly eight days, and got themselves and their spacecraft back intact.
Growing up in Oklahoma in the 1960s, I had three major Okie heroes: Roger Miller, Mickey Mantle and Gordo Cooper.

This strange little story about sending Cooper and Doohan's ashes into space (along with the ashes of about 200 others) just reminds me how much I wish we spent the money we spend on stupid wars on exploring space.

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