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Cooper Gets Hero’s Welcome in Hawaii

May 18, 1963 - Major Gordon Cooper came “home” to Hawaii today to get his first feel of solid ground as America’s newest space hero. The 36-year-old astronaut, who had thrilled millions with 22 orbits of the earth, stepped out of a helicopter at Hickam Air Force Base. It flew him from the carrier Kearsarge to the base where he had lived with his parents and from which he had commuted to the University of Hawaii in the postwar period. From the moment he set foot on the runway, Major Cooper began a conquest of Honolulu. During a parade lasting an hour and 10 minutes, he was cheered and applauded by more than 100,000 persons, one of the greatest outpourings in the city’s history. At a news conference, Major Cooper said he was confident he could have stayed in orbit 3 full days instead of 34 hours if his space capsule had been prepared and supplied for such a journey. “Do you think you could go to the moon and back?” Major Cooper was asked. “All we have to do is build the old hardware and I’m ready,” he replied.

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