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Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown Kindle Edition
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About the Author
After leaving NASA, Cooper served on numerous corporate boards and was a technical consultant in such fields as high-performance boat design, construction, and energy. He also worked for the Walt Disney Company as vice president of research and development for Epcot. His hobbies included deep-sea salvaging and designing aircraft inspired by the UFOs he observed and studied during his career as a pilot and astronaut.
A former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, private investigator, and field producer for television news, Henderson has taught reporting and writing courses at Stanford University and USC School of Journalism. He lives outside San Francisco, California.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
In early January 1959 I received unexpected orders to report to Washington, D.C. At the time I was a thirty-two-year old air force captain with twelve years of service, based at topsecret Edwards Air Force Base in the California desert.
The best test pilots in the air force were assembled at Edwards, and I had a great job. As a test pilot in the engineering branch, I had the best of both worlds. I saw a project from the design and administrative side as well as from the pilot's seat. I was testing and flying the nation's top new aircraft-hot fighters like the F-102 and F-106, and the secret U-2, a reconnaissance aircraft built like a graceful glider (and not much faster than one) with an unusually long wingspan and lightweight fuselage, that could fly higher than the surface-to-air missiles of the day.
A day or two before I was due to leave for Washington, I was called into the base commander's office with three other test pilots-including one named Donald "Deke" Slayton-who had received similar orders.
Our commanding officer, General Marcus F. Cooper (no relation), asked if any of us knew what our orders were about.
"No, sir," we all replied.
"No one will tell me anything," the general groused.
He was a good CO, a lot better than the old-stick-in-the mud general he'd replaced a year earlier. General Cooper remembered what it was like to be a young pilot, and he was very protective of his men as long as we did the job he asked of us.
I did see in the paper the other day," he went on, "that McDonnell Aircraft has been awarded a contract for the new manned space program that's starting up."
My ears perked up. I knew nothing about any "manned space program."
"Gentlemen," General Cooper said with authority, "if this has anything to do with flying in space, I want you to be very careful what you volunteer for. I don't want my best pilots to be involved in some idiotic program."
It had been a little over a year since that historic day in October 1957 when the Russians launched Sputnik, the world's first manmade satellite. The 184-pound satellite-about the size of a basketball-could be heard by American tracking stations as it orbited Earth making a characteristic "beep-beep" sound. Residents of neighborhoods across the country waited anxiously in their yards and streets, peering into the sky at a fastmoving speck of light that was surprisingly easy to see.
I had realized that Sputnik stood to open up a whole new era, and that the Soviet Union had the potential for being one up on us militarily. It reasoned that people and events on Earth could one day be observed from space. When that happened, there would be nowhere to hide.
Two months later, the U.S. Navy attempted to launch the first American satellite. It was also the first nationally televised rocket launch. Upon completion of the countdown, the Vanguard rocket lifted less than a foot off the ground before the first stage, loaded to the gills with fuel, exploded. The rest of the rocket sank in slow motion toward the ground, embedding itself in the sand next to the launch platform like a bumed-out firecracker. It left an indelible image of America's opening bid in the space race.
Were they now actually thinking of strapping a man onto a rocket?
Unbeknownst to any of us, qualifications for prospective astronaut-pilots had been established by NASA, the newly founded civilian agency designated to lead America's efforts in space, which had received funding from Congress only after Sputnik. Although the United States did not yet have the spacecraft and other hardware necessary to send a man into space, NASA came up with a list of specific requirements to describe the kind of space pilots it was seeking.
It was believed that they needed to be in their physical prime while possessing a degree of maturity to handle difficult situations. Maximum age was set at forty. Maximum height was five feet, eleven inches, an arbitrary cutoff that eliminated any number of otherwise well-qualified pilots. The spacecraft already on the drawing board had its dimensions dictated by the diameter of the available boosters--the Redstone and Atlas missiles--that would launch it into space. Those dimensions were seventy-four inches wide at the base, and it was determined that once a pilot had on helmet and pressure suit and was strapped in for liftoff, anyone six feet or taller wouldn't be able to squeeze inside.
The weight limit was set at 180 pounds for two reasons. The first had to do with the finite (and limited) payload of the available boosters-the more a man weighed, the less room there would be for the equipment that would be necessary for a safe and successful mission. Just as important was the belief that anyone who met the height requirement but weighed more than 180 pounds would probably be overweight and therefore have a less than optimal metabolic and circulatory system to handle the stresses of prolonged weightlessness and rapid changes in temperature.
The search for candidates narrowed to the ranks of practicing test pilots--meaning pilots from the air force, navy, and marines, along with a handful of civilians. The theory was that test pilots had the instincts and training required to handle a complex spacecraft traveling at high speeds and high altitudes. It made sense that the same men who were testing our country's hottest jets should be in the driver's seat when it came time to launch a manned space vehicle.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- Publication date : October 23, 2018
- File size : 21166 KB
- Print length : 274 pages
- Publisher : Open Road Media (October 23, 2018)
- ASIN : B07GGP61J5
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #467,742 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from the United States
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i worked off and on with him in Downey 1n 1966 when I was a technician on the Apollo command module in Downey bldg.290 performing integrated checkout on the bird. he was an interesting fellow and I decided to read book. He was One of the former Mercury Astronaut. the other astronauns had an agreement with a publisher not to discus their space experiences. Cooper was different he did talk about it.There was a newspaper article that Gordon Cooper “had seen a glowing, greenish object ahead of him quickly approaching his capsule” in space. Gordon Cooper the astronaut told me he did saw some object in space and it scared him. The mercury spacecraft could only carried one Astronaut into space and he was alone with that thing. I asked him for how long. He said the object came right next to the mercury spacecraft a few yards away and stayed there for about a day (20 plus hours) then it left quickly. He was sweating when he told me the tale. I asked him if it was saucer shape. He said no but it was a larger than the mercury spacecraft and he said it was bell shaped, more cylinder than bell and it was not greenish glowing, it was metallic. He wouldn’t give me any more details and dropped the subject. Gordon cooper was a back up crew member for Apollo One and 10, and then he left NASA. I guess because he would not keep quiet about the UFO he saw. Cooper spent 222 hours in space on Mercury Freedom 7 and Gemini 6 Missions
I was surprised because this conversation just came out of the blue and it was totally unexpected. I know he slipped and told me this story in confidence. I did not tell anybody about this conversation, because I did not want to discredit myself or this astronaut. This is not a common believable topic. I also thought that I would lose my security clearances if anyone found out. I tried not to remember and or think about it. I had forgotten the name of the Astronaut because I have a hard time remembering people’s name. But I remember and found the newspaper article about the green object seen by the astronaut in the mercury capsule in the internet-it jog my memory. It refers to Gordon Cooper and I am now positive it was Cooper. In Gordon Cooper’s book “Leap of Faith” he denied it happened. I guess somebody got to him or he was pulling my leg. LOL
Anyway the book is very interesting with tales he hear about of the v1 and v2 and ufo's. That being said the book really shines with his actual experience with the Mercury program. The book starts there then jumps around a bit. It is easy to read and is a must for somebody interested in the beginning of the space program.
The first half of the book provides an interesting, if relatively basic account of Gordo’s time as an astronaut.
The second half just falls off the rails. It starts with a number of brow raising and questionable little aspects. And then it really starts with his account of Wendell Welling’s homemade flying saucer.
That is shortly followed by his account of Valerie Ransone, the spoon bending telepath.
I did a bit of googling on Gordo. He got himself involved in a series of shady business deals that swindled a lot of people out of a lot of money. And it seemed that poor old Gordo pursued those deals because he genuinely believed in what he was selling.
So here I was reading about a great All American Hero and then I find that he seems to have lost his marbles. I wanted to throw up a little.
I felt very much saddened by it all.
Top reviews from other countries
What does strike me is the professionalism and gravitas of the man who has always had(in the public mind anyway)the reputation of one of the more happy go lucky astronauts, not helped, in my view by his almost buffoon-like portrayal by Dennis Quaid in Philip Kaufman's film version of Tom Wolfe's 'The Right Stuff'
Other reviewers have really covered much of the ground of this very readable work. Beyond the usual history of Cooper's flying days with the USAF, subsequent astronaut career with NASA and fragmentary details post-NASA, the most controversial area of his life, ie interest and experience of UFOs etc has drawn the most comment, and indeed criticism. Some 25% of the book is concerned with not only UFOs and extra-terrestrial life, but with what we might generally call the paranormal. His interest in the work of inventor Nikola Tesla and association with the controversial Valerie Ransone seems to have inspired scorn and shudders, but littte admiration. He comes across as disarmingly honest about his explorations and beliefs in these rather difficult areas, and whilst some allege he has spiced things up to sell more books, and others consider him gullible, it should perhaps be taken at face value. Spicing things up to sell books doesn't make sense;at his age and with the celebrity attached to his name, he would have no need to compromise his credibility. As to credulity, if he has been led up the garden path by what seem outlandish ideas about alien encounters then that is as much a part of his story as anything else. It's certainly different.
Perhaps his judgement isn't all it could be as he paints a rosy picture of rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun as a nonparticipant in the appalling treatment of slave labour at the Nazi rocket research establishment at Peenemunde, flying in the face of many other opinions. We'll never know the whole truth, of course, but at least Gordon Cooper's loyalty as a friend can't be faulted.
All in all, this is yet another fascinating account of one whose life encompassed those heady days of early manned space exploration, when, in hindsight at least, it appears there were those who believed we could reach beyond the pettiness of an earthbound existence.
An easy read for fans of the genre. The book seems to be out of print, but as usual, patient searching should find a copy at a reasonable price. Well worth a look.