Gordon Cooper, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, flew the final Mercury mission 50 years ago this week. It was the longest U.S. space mission yet: 22 orbits in a 34-hour solo flight. Cooper became the first person to sleep in space.
The story doesn't end there, though: Cooper also ran into some trouble. On his 19th orbit, the solo astronaut encountered a problem with the indicator light on the craft he named himself, Faith 7. On the 20th, he lost his attitude readings. On the 21st, a short-circuit occurred, leaving the tiny craft's automatic stabilization and control systems without electrical power.
Suddenly, the crackling radio connecting Gordo to Earth became even more crucial than it had been before. John Glenn, aboard a ship in Japan at the time, communicated with Cooper as he swept around the planet, helping the solo space traveler to revise the checklist NASA had prepared for his entry back to Earth. Meanwhile, Mercury Control Center was in a flurry of worried activity," one history has it, "cross-checking Faith 7's problems and Cooper's diagnostic actions with identical equipment at the Cape [Canaveral] and in St. Louis, then relaying to each communications site questions to ask and instructions to give."
The team soon had another problem to wrestle with: rising carbon dioxide levels in Cooper's craft -- and in his suit. The cabin temperature was rising to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. "Things are beginning to stack up a little," Cooper told the ground of the issue, understatedly.
Cooper was forced to land the craft manually, which would have been impossible of the Mercury astronauts had not fought to be able to control their spacecrafts. Read what happened at the Atlantic. Link -via Metafilter