Have you ever heard of the Faith 7? It was a legendary space mission that sent astronaut Gordon Cooper into space 56 years ago. After spending 34 hours traveling the universe, Cooper set the record for taking part in NASA’s longest space mission at that time. Read on to find out why the Faith 7 launch is still important today.

Rocket man

On May 15, 1963, Cooper had the honor of participating in Mercury-Atlas 9, which was NASA’s last mission to Mercury. The spaceship Faith 7 was launched into space from Launch Complex 14 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. With Cooper as the pilot, he made history as the final American man to complete a solo mission on his own.  Once the Faith 7 took flight into space, Cooper confirmed to NASA headquarters that, “Faith 7 is all go.” His spacecraft entered orbit at a speed of 17,547 miles per hour.

Out of this world

On his first orbit, he realized that he could do at least 20 more orbits around the earth. By the time that the Faith 7 had completed three orbits around the earth, Cooper had already finished all of the 11 experiments that he was meant to conduct onboard. Some of his tasks included ejecting a xenon strobe light sphere into space to see if he could notice the flashing disk while in orbit. He was actually able to spot the flying disk three times on his mission.

Space cadet

Other tasks included setting up cameras, altering the spacecraft attitude, and releasing tethered balloons from the nose of the Faith 7 to test atmospheric drag. By May 16, 1963, Cooper had orbited the earth 22 times and his spacecraft safely fell into the Pacific Ocean. He was admired in parades and even spoke in Congress. His space expedition truly proved to be “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”