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Oklahomans and Space


Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr.

Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr. (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Date of Birth: March 6, 1927

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Shawnee, Oklahoma

Missions: Mercury and Gemini 5

Cooper's nickname is Gordo. His grandmother came to Oklahoma in the 1880s and lived long enough to see him go to space. By age eight Cooper could fly the family airplane. He joined the Marines in World War II and transferred to the Air Force in 1949. NASA selected him to be an astronaut in 1959. During re-entry to earth on the Faith 7 the automatic controls failed and he had to manually take over flying. He landed successfully. Cooper helped prove humans can survive in space long enough for a round trip to the moon on the Gemini 5 mission. He spent 222 hours total in space. Leroy Cooper died on October 4, 2004.

Mercury 7 astronauts; Cooper is second from the left (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Leroy Gordon Cooper "Welcome Back to Earth" button (2003.095.004, Bill Moore Collection, OHS).

Mercury 7 astronauts (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

The original Mercury astronauts; Cooper is sitting to the far right (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Oklahoma Senator Kerr with Leroy Gordon Cooper (middle) (22668.2, Carter Bradley Collection, OHS).

Thomas Stafford

Tom Stafford (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Date of Birth: September 17, 1930

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Weatherford, Oklahoma

Gemini 6
Gemini 9
Apollo 11

Stafford joined the US Naval Academy and later joined the US Air Force. His first flight was on the Gemini 6 mission. He and his co-pilot, Walter Schirra, proved that it is possible for two spacecraft to fly near one another to dock like a ship and connect. The Gemini 6 came within one foot of Gemini 7. Stafford's next mission came unexpectedly when the crew of Gemini 9 died tragically in a plane crash. Stafford was part of the backup crew that allowed the mission to continue. While on the Gemini 9, his partner Eugene Cernan was doing a spacewalk when his face shield fogged over and communications started to fail. Stafford was able to talk him back inside, saving Cernan's life.

On his next mission, Apollo 10 in 1969, he flew in the largest rocket ever built, the Saturn V. This flight helped prepare for the future mission to walk on the moon. For his last mission on Apollo-Soyuz, Stafford performed the first international rendezvous and docking. The astronauts met and worked together with two Russian cosmonauts. When they met, Stafford and Russian Alexei Leonov shook hands, known as the "handshake in space," which helped begin the ending of the Cold War and allowed the Russians and Americans to work together in space. Altogether, Stafford spent 407 hours and forty-three minutes in space.

Stafford Air & Space Museum
The Stafford Air & Space Museum is located in Weatherford, Oklahoma, the hometown of legendary astronaut and aviation pioneer General Thomas P. Stafford. Housing one of the finest collections of aviation and space flight exhibits in the central United States, the museum features a large series of aeronautical and space artifacts. The museum features an exhibit area for the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs featuring artifacts from each mission. Visit www.staffordmuseum.com to find out more.

Stafford touching Snoopy, the mission's mascot, for good luck (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Astronauts during training, including Thomas Stafford (standing, left) (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

A picture of Gemini spacecraft autographed by Thomas Stafford (22668.4, Carter Bradley Collection, OHS).

Stafford and Cosmonaut Leonov, 1975 (18220.l11.0, Jerry Elliott Collection, OHS).

Thomas Stafford speaking at the Oklahoma Historical Society (19687.HS.OHS.EV.1.21, Chester R. Cowen Collection, OHS).

Fred Haise

Fred Haise (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Date of Birth: November 14, 1933

Oklahoma Connection: Joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard and attended the University of Oklahoma.

Missions: Apollo 13

Haise began his military career in 1952 and afterward joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Later he graduated from the University of Oklahoma. He then joined the US Air Force. NASA selected him as an astronaut in 1966. He was the Lunar Module pilot for the Apollo 13 mission. The mission was supposed to last ten days and they were to land on the moon. While on their way to the moon and just a few days into the mission, there was an explosion in the command module and they noticed gas leaking into space. The service module oxygen tank had failed. This was very dangerous because the astronauts were 200,000 miles from earth. They were not sure if they would make it home. The astronauts got out of the command module and into the lunar module, closing off the command module. They had to conserve electricity, food, and water to survive the rest of the way home. There were also problems with the navigation systems, but Haise turned around and flew everyone back, where they landed on earth safely. Despite this heroism, Haise was disappointed that he did not make it to the moon. In total, Haise spent 142 hours and fifty-four minutes in space.

Apollo 13 crew; Fred Haise on far right (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

The flight director watches Apollo 13 astronaut and lunar module pilot Fred Haise on screen in the Mission Operations Control Room. Shortly after, an explosion occurred that threatened the lives of the crew (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Stuart Allen Roosa

Stuart Allen Roosa (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Date of Birth: August 16, 1933

Oklahoma Connection: As a boy, he and his family moved from Colorado to Claremore, Oklahoma, where he attended high school.

Missions: Apollo 14

As a boy Roosa always wanted to be a pilot when he grew up. As a teenager, he worked for the US Forest Service fighting fires. He later joined the US Air Force. He served as the Command Module pilot on Apollo 14, which went to the moon. Roosa orbited the moon while the other two astronauts walked on the moon. He spent 217 hours in space, thirty-three of which were spent orbiting the moon. Roosa died on December 12, 1994.

The Apollo 14 Command Module with astronaut Stuart A. Roosa landing in the Pacific Ocean (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Owen Garriott

Owen Garriott (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Date of Birth: November 22, 1930

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Enid, Oklahoma


In high school, Garriott worked at a radio station as an engineer. He also earned his amateur radio license. He joined the US Navy ROTC in college and then served as an electronics officer until 1956. He earned his PhD from Stanford University in 1960 in electrical engineering. For the Skylab-3 mission he flew on the Saturn I-B rocket in 1973 where he conducted many experiments. He was a mission specialist on the space shuttle Columbia, which is part of Spacelab. On this mission, he conducted the first amateur radio operations using his own call letters. He spent 1,674 hours and fifty-six minutes in space.

Skylab 3 astronaut Owen Garriott on a spacewalk (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Skylab 2 mission patch and accompanying document with patch description by Alan L. Bean, Owen K. Garriott, and Jack R. Lousma (M2007.76, George Nigh Collection, OHS).

Owen Garriott, back left (22311.S.72.17482, Jerry Elliott Collection, OHS).

William Pogue

William Pogue (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Date of Birth: January 23, 1930

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Okemah, Oklahoma

Missions: Skylab 4

Born in Okemah, Pogue grew up in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. He attended Oklahoma Baptist University and later earned got his Masters of Science from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University). He joined the US Air Force and fought in the Korean War. From 1955–57 Pogue was a member of the US Air Force Thunderbirds. He became a pilot for Skylab 4 and went to space on the Saturn I-B rocket. This was the last and longest of the Skylab missions. Pogue spent 2,017 hours in space.

Pogue is balanced on one finger by another astronaut (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Presentation flag carried on Skylab 2 by William Pogue to commemorate all the Indian tribes in Oklahoma (1974.007, Col. William R. Pogue Collection, OHS).

Shannon Lucid

Shannon Lucid (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Date of Birth: January 14, 1943

Oklahoma Connection: Raised in Bethany, Oklahoma


Lucid's parents were missionaries in China when Lucid was born in Shanghai. As an infant, the Japanese Army held her and her family captive in a prison camp. Her parents came back to the United States and Lucid grew up in Bethany, Oklahoma. She attended the University of Oklahoma and received her BS, MS, and PhD in biochemistry. While in college, Lucid also took flying lessons. Later, NASA selected her as one of the first female astronauts. She went on many missions and conducted experiments. Her last mission was as an engineer on the Russian Space Station, Mir. Since the Cold War had ended, Russians and Americans were cooperating with each other.

Shannon Lucid's polo shirt (1999.057.001, Shannon Lucid Collection, OHS).

First female astronaut candidates, 1978; Lucid on far left (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

John Herrington

John Herrington (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Date of Birth: September 14, 1958

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Wetumka, Oklahoma

Missions: STS-113

Herrington is a Chickasaw Indian. He earned a BS from the University of Colorado. He joined the Navy and learned to fly airplanes and later MS degree from the US Navy Postgraduate School. Herrington flew in the shuttle Endeavor to the International Space Station as a mission specialist where he installed new parts on the space station. Herrington was the first American Indian to go to space. He spent 330 hours and 47 minutes in space.

Excerpt from The Daily Oklahoman article "First Indian in space began journey in state" Tuesday, September 10, 2002.

Other Oklahomans

Carole Ann McLemore

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1960

Carole Ann McLemore began working as an engineer at NASA in 1985. She helped design the International Space Station and continues working as a project manager of the In-Situ Resource Utilization, Fabrication and Repair, and Dust activites at the NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center.

James Webb

James Webb (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Oklahoma Connection: Moved to Oklahoma in 1953

James Webb moved to Oklahoma City to work for Kerr McGee. In 1961 he became the administrator of NASA under President John F. Kennedy. He served until 1968, helping to get the first man on the moon.

Jerry Elliott

Jerry Elliott with Iron Eyes Cody and the Apollo-Soyuz docking module (22311., Jerry Elliott Collection, OHS).

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Jerry Elliott is a Cherokee and Osage Indian. As a child he had a vision that he would help get people to the moon. He became an engineer for NASA in 1966. He worked on the Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs. He was working in Mission Control when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. He also founded the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

Donna Shirley

Donna Shirley (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, in 1941

Donna Shirley dreamed of going to Mars as a little girl. She enrolled in the University of Oklahoma's engineering program and her advisor told her "girls can't be engineers." In 1994 she became the Mars Program Manager in the Office of Mars Exploration. She helped get the first rover landed on Mars in 1997.

Read an oral history interview with Donna Shirley.

Velma Clark

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Custer City, Oklahoma, in 1910

Velma Clark graduated from Oklahoma A& M with a degree in journalism. In 1968 a company hired her to work on writing, editing, and proofing NASA handbooks.

Wiley Post

Wiley Post in the pressurized suit (23115-AL-19-4, Arch Dixon Collection, OHS).

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Maysville, Oklahoma

Wiley Post is best known for setting a record for flying around the world. He also wanted to fly higher than anyone had before. He could not do so in his plane, the Winnie Mae, because it was made of wood. The pressure in the air was too strong to allow him to fly so high. So he contacted the B. F. Goodrich Company to design him a suit that would allow him to fly high into the atmosphere. In 1934 Wiley Post flew the Winnie Mae to 40,000 feet, and later flew to as high as 50,000 feet. Wiley Post made it possible for astronauts to survive in space by helping to develop the first pressurized suit.

Geraldyn Cobb

Geraldyn Cobb (image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1931

Cobb learned to fly her father's plane by age twelve. She became the first woman astronaut trainee in 1960 and was also a consultant on the future use of women astronauts. In 1963 NASA decided not to use women astronauts. Cobb resigned and became a humanitarian aid worker to South America, winning many awards for her work.

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