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  Gordon Cooper as commander of Skylab?

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Author Topic:   Gordon Cooper as commander of Skylab?
carmelo
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posted 11-24-2005 10:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is it true that instead of Apollo 13 commander assignment Deke Slayton offered to Gordon Cooper the seat of commander on a Skylab mission? Cooper refused, and left NASA.

All this sound new for me, but is it true?

FFrench
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posted 11-27-2005 12:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What was your source on this?

collshubby
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posted 11-27-2005 01:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for collshubby   Click Here to Email collshubby     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've heard of several astronauts who could have commanded Skylab 2, but never Gordon Cooper. I think he knew which hand was dealt to him after the Apollo 10 back-up assignment.

carmelo
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posted 11-27-2005 02:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by FFrench:
What was your source on this?
Somewhere in Internet.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-27-2005 03:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The only reference on the internet I could find to Skylab and Cooper was a 1998 thread on sci.space.history: What happened with Gordon Cooper & Apollo

In it, James Oberg wrote, "He also apparently was offered command of Skylab-2 (first manned mission), but rejected it."

Michael Cassutt replies to Oberg, "Cooper was not in the pool of Skylab-2 commanders as it existed in late 1970, early 1971, since he left NASA on July 1, 1970. He most definitely _was_ a candidate to command the first Skylab, but only when it was still known as AAP -- when Cooper headed the AAP branch of the astronaut office circa 1967."

Cassutt continues, "He was on probation a lot earlier than that. Deke told me that he had to fight pretty hard to get Gordo assigned to MA-9 in place of Shepard (!). Deke originally had no plans to fly either Cooper or Carpenter in Gemini, and only wound up using Gordo on GT-5 when Shepard (are we sensing a pattern?) got grounded and removed from GT-3. Yes, Gordo had a chance to redeem himself both with the GT-12 backup job, which had to have been a miserable assignment, and with Apollo 10, but did not. I don't believe that Deke _ever_ intended to assign Gordon to Apollo 13. Before Shepard's return it was likely to have been McDivitt."

FFrench
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posted 11-27-2005 03:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Cooper did head up flight crew ops for Skylab for a while before he left. But this I think was similar to what happened to Cunningham - he was moved into Skylab to essentially take him out of the Apollo flight rotation. Cunningham himself comments on Gordo in his book, saying he was "moved upstairs to work with Deke... he marked time there until July 1970."

Schweickart was given a backup command for Skylab, but never flew again either.

Cunningham states, when he inherited the Skylab job that Gordo vacated, he was promised command of the first Skylab mission (by Stafford, who was astro office chief by then) - but Conrad eventually took it.

I think there is a pattern here - that when it was a startup program, experienced astronauts who (rightly or wrongly) were not expected to fly in Apollo again were moved over there. Once the Apollo program was winding down, they were pushed aside in favor of astronauts with more political influence in the astronaut office.

It's possible Cooper took the job with some kind of promise of a flight. But I have never heard of it, and in my interviews with him about Apollo 10 + 13 assignments offered he never mentioned it.

I suspect your internet source might be getting the Cunningham and Cooper stories confused.

trajan
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posted 11-27-2005 03:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for trajan   Click Here to Email trajan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Somewhat off-topic but apropos Robert's post above, I have variously read that McDivitt was touted as an Apollo Commander, LMP of Apollo 14 and (in Dave Scott's book) on Apollo 9 said that that would be his last flight. Can anyone clarify the timelines when he was in/out of favour or, indeed, ruled himself out?

FFrench
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posted 11-27-2005 04:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
McDivitt was reported to have said that he really wanted to keep his Apollo 9 crew together and fly another mission as a trio - when Scott was (rightfully) offered his own command, this plan evaporated. Neither Scott nor Rusty remember it this way, however.

He's also said that he was interested in flying the first lunar landing, but not too interested in commanding a later mission. He certainly did an incredible amount behind the scenes as a manager, something he does not get as much credit for as he should. He'd been instrumental in test-flying Apollo hardware, and now he was able to use this experience to redesign it for extended lunar missions. With the Apollo 12 lightning strike and the Apollo 16 engine oscillation, he was able to make fast decisions based on experience that helped save both missions.

carmelo
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posted 11-27-2005 06:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
The only reference on the internet I could find to Skylab and Cooper was a 1998 thread on sci.space.history: What happened with Gordon Cooper & Apollo
Was it, now remember!

carmelo
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posted 11-27-2005 06:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
I don't believe that Deke ever intended to assign Gordon to Apollo 13.
But this, if true, is very, very sad. Sincerely, which was the problem with Gordo? He was a bad pilot and a bad astronaut? He was negligent in training? He was bad tempered? He was a rebel undisciplined?

Please tell me which was the problem with Gordo because I think that there was no problem, only two frustrates — no flying status — astronauts with too much power and too much politicals tricks.

Duke Of URL
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posted 11-27-2005 08:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Duke Of URL   Click Here to Email Duke Of URL     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was probably a combination of things from what I've read. He was always underestimated by the Suits, and some have blamed his Oklahoma drawl. I can't imagine that would be true considering Tom Stafford's career. And NASA administrators would have had previous contact with people from Okalahoma holding responsible jobs in the military.

The party line is that he slacked off in training. I've seen it written that Cooper had to be teased into simulators. But his flight performances were high-level so it's tough to think he actually ignored training.

I've never heard anything about either a bad temper of poor piloting skills.

It's probably a combination of things.

micropooz
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posted 01-20-2007 08:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I resurrected this old thread because I found some interesting info in an old March, 1969 Astrophile (the pub of the Space Unit):
ASTRONAUT COOPER CAN NOT RACE - Astronaut Gordon Cooper, angry over NASA orders banning him from a 24-hour race, said Jan. 31 that 'My future now probably includes more racing than being an astronaut'. Cooper, a veteran of Mercury and Gemini flights and command pilot of the backup crew of Apollo 10 was to have co-driven a Mercury Cougar in the 24 Hours of Daytona International Sports Car Race. Apparently at the last minute, NASA ordered him not to race. His co-driver was Charlie Beckley, security chief at KSC. Cooper was quoted as saying 'They ought to hire tiddly-wink players as astronauts. This racing has been my hobby all of my life.'
Well, after those two public quotes, I'd imagine that NASA management was pret-ty darned cool towards putting Cooper on any more flights.

carmelo
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posted 01-20-2007 10:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In January 1969 Gordo was Back-up CMDR on Apollo 10, one of most important missions of the Apollo project. Is very, very sad... Gordo ruined himself. Is not doubt, also without Shepard would not have never Apollo 13. Illogical, silly, behaviour.

SpaceCat
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posted 01-21-2007 12:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceCat     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think I'd go so far as saying 'Gordo runined himself,' but it's a common arguement that still exists in many industries outside of spaceflight. If your employer has lots of time and money invested in you- should they be able to restrict your activities when you are not on the job? Big name movie stars are often required to follow such restrictions when they are under contract to a studio.

I can see both sides of the question- but in this case I think it was NASA who was unreasonable. Statistically speaking, if you know what you're doing, (and Gordo certainly did) driving an automobile on public highways is A LOT more dangerous than on the track at Daytona.

dtemple
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posted 01-22-2007 07:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dtemple   Click Here to Email dtemple     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I read about Cooper being ordered not to race, but never considered this angle before (driving on the highway being statistically safer than racing). Racing that Mercury Cougar would certainly have been safer than flying an Apollo spacecraft to the moon, too!

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