Gordon Cooper Jr. was a brave and skilled astronaut – almost the stereotype of an all-American good guy. But on one of his missions for NASA he actually discovered something extraordinary – and none of his colleagues knew anything about it. In fact, it wasn’t until well after his death in 2004 that the story finally came out.
Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper Jr. was born in 1927 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Cooper’s father was a USAF man who served in both world wars – which was a clue as to what the future held for his son. The boy was less than nine years old when his dad took him up on a flight and gave him a turn at the controls. But when Cooper graduated from high school in 1945, there were no places available in military flying schools, so he opted to join the Marines.
Cooper joined too late to see action in World War II, though, and he was honorably discharged from the Marines. In 1949 he would be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the army, but he then transferred to the United States Air Force later that year. At last he was able to begin training as a pilot.