May 15 1963 – Mercury-Atlas 9, carrying NASA Astronaut Gordon Cooper in his Faith 7 capsule, was rocketed into orbit by an Atlas booster.
The launch took place where all the Mercury-Atlas rockets were launched – Space Launch Complex 14 at Kennedy Space Center. Cooper was the first American in space for over a day, and the first person to sleep in space.
Gordon Cooper was the youngest of the original Mercury 7 Astronauts. After Project Mercury, Cooper flew an 8-day mission as commander of Gemini V with Pete Conrad. Cooper passed away on October 4 2004, the very day that SpaceShipOne won the X-Prize.
Until SpaceShipOne, Gordon Cooper was the last man to fly into space alone. And yes, when asked ‘who is the best pilot you ever saw,’ Cooper’s answer was, “You’re looking at him.”