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Author Topic:   NASA remembers Gordon Cooper
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 42988
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-15-2004 09:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was invited to today's memorial service and tree planting ceremony for Gordon Cooper at Johnson Space Center. The service brought together astronauts from all eras of space exploration as well as those who knew Cooper through his NASA and space activities.

The service was broadcast on NASA TV and will replay tomorrow at 9am and 1pm (EDT). Paying tribute to Cooper were the surviving Mercury 7 astronauts John Glenn, Scott Carpenter and Wally Schirra; Henri Landwirth, who co-founded the Mercury 7 Foundation with Cooper (now the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation); Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper; and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. Astronaut Bob Cabana presided over the tree planting ceremony at JSC's Memorial Grove. Frank Culbertson performed Taps.

Mike Fincke also delivered a tribute via video, ringing the bell aboard the International Space Station three times.

In addition to those named above, I spotted in attendance and/or spoke with John Young, Tom Stafford, Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Dick Gordon, Buzz Aldrin, Walt Cunningham, Rusty Schweickart, Alan Bean, Fred Haise, Charlie Duke, Owen Garriott, Vance Brand, Bob Crippen, Hank Hartsfield, Dan Brandenstein, Charlie Walker, Rick Hauck, Rick Hieb, Hoot Gibson, Rhea Seddon, Bonnie Dunbar, Bernard Harris, Bill Readdy, Jake Garn, Jon McBride, Bo Bobko, Hans Schlegel, and several members of the 2004 Astronaut Class. There were likely quite more in attendance who I didn't see or cannot remember now.

Bobbie Slayton, Laura Churchley (Alan Shepard's daughter), and members of Grissom's family were also there to pay their respects.

At the tree planting ceremony, in addition to the planned Missing Man formation flyover performed by T-38s, there was also several passes by WWII-era planes on their way to Ellington Field for this weekend's air show. Their appearance was appropriate as we stood celebrating the life of a great pilot and astronaut.


Posts: 1208
From: Upcountry, Maui, Hawaii
Registered: Mar 2002

posted 10-15-2004 09:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rizz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for sharing that Robert.


Posts: 400
From: Union, New Jersey
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 10-16-2004 11:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkman   Click Here to Email Hawkman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you, Robert. All these guys, from Mercury through Apollo, were my heroes growing up in the 60's.

I was honored to be able to pay tribute to Gordo by sending a check to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation per the family's wishes.

I hope that you don't think this too bold but in a way your presence there represented all of us. Thank you.

New Member

Posts: 5
From: Morrisonville, New York USA
Registered: Apr 2009

posted 10-16-2004 01:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard   Click Here to Email Richard     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Gene. Thanks, Robert.


Posts: 464
From: Issaquah, WA U.S.A.
Registered: Jun 2002

posted 10-16-2004 01:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jake   Click Here to Email Jake     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for sharing this story Robert. Gordo will truly be missed...


Posts: 21
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 10-16-2004 02:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sheppard   Click Here to Email sheppard     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Both I and a friend were fortunate enough to be invited to the ceremony as well. As Robert already said, there were too many astronauts there to count. In addition to those he mentioned, I saw Sam Gemar, Mario Runco Jr., Michael Bloomfield, Jim Reilly II, Leland Melvin and several others that I just don't remember. It was good to see such a turnout of Gordo's friends, peers and admirers.

Scott Carpenter's tribute was absolutely riveting. He seemed so intense and emotional. I'm not sure I actually heard the words he said, but I certainly felt them. I'm not sure I can describe it any better than that.

The bell ringing from the ISS just about brought the house down. It was absolutely amazing and I don't think there was a dry eye in the auditorium afterwards.

Even the weather cooperated for the tree planting. Nice and cool with a light breeze. Very different from what you normally experience in Houston. The sky was a deep, clear blue; not a cloud anywhere. The T-38 that pulled out of the missing man formation went straight up for what seemed like minutes. I'll remember for a long time the image of that bright white jet getting smaller and smaller until it disappeared.

One of the things that was really good to see were the interactions between some of the astronauts, particularly the older guys. Even though it was a serious occasion, there were handshakes, hugs and lots of smiles all around. Neil looked better and more relaxed than I'd ever seen him.

All in all, the memorial was what it was intended to be: a celebration, not a wake. It would be hard to say I enjoyed it, but it was appropriate and I left with a smile on my face.


Posts: 361
From: Houston, TX, USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 10-16-2004 05:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for pokey   Click Here to Email pokey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Of the retired astronauts please add Bolden (who showed up with Mrs. Onizuka) and Michael Collins. Collins sat in the back a few seats from me just after the service began. He left when the posthumous award was being presented. [I believe I am the only person at the service that saw him slip in and out.]

If Cooper did not receive the NASA Distinguished Service award while alive, I can only assume that the rest of the early astronauts are in the same boat. Perhaps O'Keefe (who is currently sitting behind Barbara Bush at the Astros game as I type this) will have a ceremony to award the rest of them while they are still living.


Posts: 400
From: Union, New Jersey
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 10-16-2004 07:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkman   Click Here to Email Hawkman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Andy, thanks for your post.


Posts: 269
From: Houston, TX, USA
Registered: Aug 2001

posted 10-16-2004 07:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for lewarren   Click Here to Email lewarren     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
All JSC employees were invited and encouraged to attend Gordo Cooper's memorial service.

I would guess that about 70-80% of the current astronaut office was in attendance (some were out of town, and some were flying in the missing man formation).

Some quotes I recall from the service (these are from my memory and may be paraphrased):

John Glenn: "Most of us [referring to the remaining Mercury astronauts] have a lot more runway behind them than ahead of them. Gordo has scrambled, he's out there ahead of us with Gus and Al and Deke, and I'm sure we'll all rendezvous out there, someday."

Scott Carpenter: "We were welded into a fraternity that had no equal at that time, or this time, for that matter."

Wally Schirra: "We regret losing Gordo. He was one of our dear friends. Not too bad a water skier, not too bad a pilot, but a heck of a good astronaut."

General John Jumper - USAF Chief of Staff: "We know that Gordon Cooper is off to that place that all airmen seek to go. A place that is higher, faster and farther."

Godspeed Gordo.

Dave Clow

Posts: 236
From: South Pasadena, CA 91030
Registered: Nov 2003

posted 10-18-2004 12:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dave Clow   Click Here to Email Dave Clow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks everyone for sharing your accounts of the service. We're witnesses to a unique moment in human history, and Cooper's passing just makes that all the more clear.

Rob Joyner

Posts: 1308
From: GA, USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 10-18-2004 01:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Joyner   Click Here to Email Rob Joyner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well said, Dave.


Posts: 953
From: South Bend, IN
Registered: Apr 2002

posted 10-18-2004 08:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman1953   Click Here to Email spaceman1953     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for all for your reports. Thank you most sincerely.

You can't truly imagine the impact they have on those of us who couldn't be/weren't there.

All times are CT (US)

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