Leap of Faith Hardcover – 29 Mar 2001
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A true American hero, Gordon "Gordo" Cooper was with a fledgling NASA as humankind took its first courageous steps into space. In his stirring memoir, Leap of Faith, the former Mercury astronaut takes readers on a revealing tour from the early days of the space program when there was a real likelihood of cataclysmic booster failure or being stranded in space, to the future of space exploration. As a true space program "insider," Cooper offers a unique perspective and insight to the challenges of space and tackles hot-button issues such as the secrets of Area 5 1 and the existence of UFOs. His controversial conclusions are well thought out and even astonishing, and they reveal his strong and unshakeable belief in extraterrestrial intelligence.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book insn`t just a fairly potted bioraphy, but it also goes to some length to set out his evidently wide experiences (personal and reported)of UFO`s and ET contact and technologies. His comments on alternative technologies and propulsion systems are very thought provoking and somewhat x-filesque. Unlike some other astro biog`s, he doesn`t take us through the minutaie of his upbringing, although the early influences of his parents and their colourful and famous aviator friends is acknowledged.
He certainly pulls no punches as to why he left NASA after failing to get a prime crew slot on Apollo 13, having been backup to both Gemini and Apollo missions. He plainly lays blame at the doors of two astro luminaries (Shepard and Slayton) as using their power in selection for their own good, describing their slots in charge of assignments as "like placing a couple of hungry tomcats in charge of the aviary". Neither are, of course,here to answer!
As much as I enjoyed the book, I do believe it has some rather dubious passages. In closing and musing on the waste of technology and resources by using a redudant Saturn V as a museum exhibit at the Johnson Space Centre he say "I believe it`s the only Saturn V still around" - obviously, he hasn`t been to KSC lately! Also, he describes Gene Krantz as having considered the possibility of being in the equipment bay of the capsule of Apollo 1 on the day of the fateful fire. Krantz (I believe) makes no mention of this in "Failure Is Not An Option". Chaikin in his authoratative "A Man On The Moon" says this was Deke Slayton`s regret (page 195).Read more ›
What does strike me is the professionalism and gravitas of the man who has always had(in the public mind anyway)the reputation of one of the more happy go lucky astronauts, not helped, in my view by his almost buffoon-like portrayal by Dennis Quaid in Philip Kaufman's film version of Tom Wolfe's 'The Right Stuff'
Other reviewers have really covered much of the ground of this very readable work. Beyond the usual history of Cooper's flying days with the USAF, subsequent astronaut career with NASA and fragmentary details post-NASA, the most controversial area of his life, ie interest and experience of UFOs etc has drawn the most comment, and indeed criticism. Some 25% of the book is concerned with not only UFOs and extra-terrestrial life, but with what we might generally call the paranormal. His interest in the work of inventor Nikola Tesla and association with the controversial Valerie Ransone seems to have inspired scorn and shudders, but littte admiration.Read more ›
As well as an account of his time with NASA Gordo also gives an account of what he did after resigning and gives some insight into his belief of UFOs
A great account of one the greatest pilots anyone ever saw.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
For about two thirds of this book Cooper recounts his days with NASA and here he is, pardon the expression, on solid ground. The passages feel a bit rushed and his interpretation of events differ from other viewpoints you may have read, but he's Gordon Cooper and he's earned the right to have his say.
Unfortunately, the NASA days are only part of Cooper's life story and it's the remaining one third of the book where he drives himself into the ditch. I knew from other sources that Cooper firmly believes flying saucers have visited the Earth and our government has conspired to keep the truth from us. I don't believe this myself, but again, he's Gordon Cooper and he has earned my respect. I was willing to listen to what he had to say.
A few UFO stories would have been fine, but Cooper shoots himself in the foot and destroys whatever credibility he had when he recounts his relationship with Valerie Ransone who he met in the late 70s. Ransone claimed to receive telepathic messages from space aliens and wanted to use the knowledge she was gaining to start something called the Advanced Technology Group. Of course, this group needed some funding to get itself going.
Rarely, if ever, have I read a book before where something becomes painfully obvious to the reader but of which the author remains blissfully unaware. Ransone begins to use Cooper for his name and prestige to obtain money for what is nothing more than a huge scam. Cooper never seems to catch on. His viewpoint always seems to be "It might be true, therefore it is true."
The lowest point in this silliness comes when Ransone announces that the aliens are coming to Earth to give Cooper a ride in one of their saucers. Cooper, as gullible as can be, prepares for his expectant UFO flight just as he had for any of his NASA missions. It comes as absolutely no surprise, to anyone but Cooper I guess, when shortly before the flight the aliens are forced to cancel. Apparently there was a political squabble over this proposed flight back on the homeworld. Darn the luck.
One is left to wonder if Cooper really believed all this nonsense or if he was just including it as a way to make his book stand out and sell a few more copies. Either way, it's a pretty poor way for a true American hero to act.
At one point Cooper even thinks that, based on what one of these people has told him, that an alien ship is coming to take him on a trip. Honest! He goes so far as to pack a bag!
Overall, I would say to read the first half and forget about the rest. Both this book and Gene Cernan's "The Last Man on the Moon" serve to remind us that some of these astronauts, despite their good qualities, were very odd people.
His autobiography, Leap of Faith, is a surprising and somewhat schizoid read, mixing Cooper's space program experience with increasingly dubious episodes on UFO sightings and telepathy. The overall structure has a stitched-together feel to it, and the last third with Gordo charging off into the world of the paranormal seems to belong to another book entirely. The writing style throughout is average journalist fare - bland vocabulary, repeated words in one sentence -, but not too bad overall.
Cooper's account of the space program offers no startling insights or deep emotional truths; his added personal perspective is interesting enough, though; the actual narrations of the Faith 7 flight, photographing the Himalayas, manual re-entry and all, and the 8-day Gemini mission with Pete Conrad are quite captivating. There is very little in the way of technical detail, some nice stories about training and promotional voyages, the usual photographs, and that's it. All in all, Leap of Faith remains a superficial effort. Gordo's childhood and background, his career before NASA and his family life receive preciously little attention, serving mostly to produce anecdotes or, in the case of his Air Force years, UFO speculations. Disappointing, the more so in light of the following chapters.
When he's denied the chance to command an Apollo mission, Cooper leaves NASA in 1970. Some accounts claim that he was slacking off, that he carried his maverick attitude into training, while others say it was a political decision by astronaut chief Deke Slayton, who wanted to get his friend Al Shepard a flight (Leap of Faith, naturally, supports the latter point of view). It's interesting, in this regard, to compare Slayton's superb and carefully researched autobiography with Cooper's effort.
After retirement, Gordo embarks on a surreal journey of X-fileish proportions, minus the humour: after some time flight testing "saucers" build by a Salt Lake City businessman and UFO believer, he is contacted by a young woman who claims to have telepathic contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence. Naturally, she describes these aliens - the "Universal Intelligence Consortium" - in such unimaginative and naively anthropocentric terms that it merits pity. But Gordo, being attracted to her and all, obviously reasons differently. And so the two spend their time together reconstructing obscure Tesla inventions, until she tells Cooper that he's been selected to take a spin aboard a real alien spaceship. Alas, the mission is scrubbed at the last minute, seemingly due to political struggles between various extraterrestrial factions. Too bad.
At least Gordo is portrayed with a last holdout of scepticism throughout these strange proceedings, and undecided in the end. Ultimately, Leap of Faith merely repeats some of the popular conspiracy theories - Area 51 is there, too -, content to raise supposedly unanswered questions. Still, the example it gives of uncritical thinking and silly (often self-contradictory) logic is troubling. The epilogue, with Cooper talking about the present-day space program and a farewell to his buddy, the late Pete Conrad, comes as quite a relief.
The more so since the book is riddled with a myriad of inaccuracies. To name but two of the most obvious examples, the Saturn V rocket's first stage has five engines, not eight. And Russian Cosmonaut Pavel Belyayev, who went into space but once aboard Voskhod 2, was hardly "a veteran of two spaceflights" when Cooper met him in 1965. As aviation books go, it doesn't get any sloppier than this. Regarding the UFO mutterings, they are rendered even more outlandish - if it were needed - alongside capital mistakes like these.
Natural, perhaps, considering the lesser "conspiracy" fare on the market, although one must feel disappointed to find such yarn in a book carrying the name of Gordon Cooper. The benefit of doubt, mercifully, suggests that a certain Mr. Henderson did the actual writing, but the fact that Gordo obviously didn't bother much with proof-reading is distinctly unimpressive just as well. Especially when working with an author who is truly at odds with looking up basic technical and biographical data. Maverick or not, if you do an autobiography, you might as well do it right.
Still, the okay passages on the space program, with Gordo's refreshing "strap-it-on-and-go" attitude shining through, prevent Leap of Faith from becoming a total disaster. When read like an adventure novel - "The Right Stuff" meets "X-Files" -, the book has some good moments, and the "owns all"-space buff will merrily add it to his collection despite the flaws (he knows where else to find the accurate data, anyway). A less specialised (or less nutty) reader, though, will find the Cooper / Henderson cooperation quite unsatisfying.
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