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09-04-1959 - On this day, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduces America’s first astronauts to the press: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald Slayton. The seven men, all military test pilots, were carefully selected from a group of 32 candidates to take part in Project Mercury, America’s first manned space program. NASA planned to begin manned orbital flights in 1961.

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Gordon Cooper, Shawnee, OK. NASA Astronaut, Mercury and Gemini missions. Sighted UFOs starting in 1951.

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Mercury Spacecraft, designed and built by McDonnell, St. Louis for NASA. Signed by the six astronauts who flew in the Mercury program: Alan B Shepard, Gus Grissom, J H Glenn, Jr., Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper.

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Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper Jr., has a smile for the recovery crew of the U.S.S. Kearsarge, after he is on board from a successful 22 orbit mission of the Earth in his Mercury spacecraft "Faith 7." Cooper is still sitting in his capsule, with his helmet off. (Great Images in NASA)

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NASA Gemini Missions - Gemini 5 with C. Gordon Cooper as the commander and Pete (Charles) Conrad, Jr as the pilot.

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Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper - Manually "flew" his troubled Mercury capsule out of orbit

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Six of the seven original Mercury astronauts in early 1961, shortly after three of them -- Shepard, John Glenn, and Gus Grissom -- were named candidates for the May 1961 space flight. (That's Shepard, clowning, with Gordon Cooper, Donald "Deke" Slayton, Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and Walter Schirra. Grissom was away, on missile-tracking duty.)

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