May 15, 1963 - A capacity crowd of 8,000 jammed into the main concourse of New York’s Grand Central Terminal today to watch the televised launching of Major Gordon Cooper. William Stokely, redcap No. 150, has fought his way through terminal crowds since 1934, but none, he said, was so large as today’s. “It was far worse than those children-go-to-camp days.” To view the oversize 12-by-16-foot screen, to which CBS projected the television image seen by home viewers, the crowd overflowed onto stairways and balconies. The hubbub dwindled to silence as the countdown reached its final seconds, and then swelled to cheers as the space capsule roared from its pad at 9:04 a.m. Underground, the good news was broadcast in subway stations over the loudspeakers that usually drone out stern warnings to pushing commuters. “Astronaut Cooper blasted off at 9:04 a.m.,” the speakers announced. “Kindly say a prayer for his safe return.” Later in the day, a sentence was added to the announcement giving the number of orbits made by the spacecraft. Most schoolchildren saw the launching in classrooms and returned to the television coverage during free periods, the Board of Education reported.
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