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Cooper Set to Splash Down Tonight

May 16, 1963 - Major Gordon Cooper was speeding around the earth today on the longest spaceflight ever made by an American. At 3 a.m. Eastern daylight time, the astronaut had completed 12 of the 22 orbits called for in his flight plan. If he goes all the way, Major Cooper and his Faith 7 capsule will be set down by parachute in the Pacific at 7:23 p.m. today. The target point for the return to earth is about 115 miles east-southeast of the island of Midway. The 36-year-old Air Force test pilot passed the 6-orbit U.S. record of Comdr. Walter Schirra at 6:13 p.m. yesterday. Midway in the ninth orbit, Major Cooper started a scheduled eight-hour “rest period,” in which he was expected to sleep a good deal. All Mercury tracking stations were asked to keep radio silence unless called on for something. By 3 a.m., five hours had passed since any of the ground station had spoken with him. He was presumed to be asleep. In fact, one brief period of rapid heartbeat suggested he was dreaming.


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