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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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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. He comes across as disarmingly honest about his explorations and beliefs in these rather difficult areas, and whilst some allege he has spiced things up to sell more books, and others consider him gullible, it should perhaps be taken at face value. Spicing things up to sell books doesn't make sense;at his age and with the celebrity attached to his name, he would have no need to compromise his credibility. As to credulity, if he has been led up the garden path by what seem outlandish ideas about alien encounters then that is as much a part of his story as anything else. It's certainly different.
Perhaps his judgement isn't all it could be as he paints a rosy picture of rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun as a nonparticipant in the appalling treatment of slave labour at the Nazi rocket research establishment at Peenemunde, flying in the face of many other opinions. We'll never know the whole truth, of course, but at least Gordon Cooper's loyalty as a friend can't be faulted.
All in all, this is yet another fascinating account of one whose life encompassed those heady days of early manned space exploration, when, in hindsight at least, it appears there were those who believed we could reach beyond the pettiness of an earthbound existence.
An easy read for fans of the genre. The book seems to be out of print, but as usual, patient searching should find a copy at a reasonable price. Well worth a look.
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). Perhaps this is co-author Henderson`s input?
Nit-picking aside, I liked it a lot. Another very worthwhile and first-hand commentary on such heady stuff for "thirtysomethings" like me!
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.
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