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69 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiring Story from one who has the Right Stuff!
As one of the "Original Seven", Gordon"Gordo" Cooper describes his unique life experiences such asbeing the last American to ever fly into space alone. From his youth in Shawnee, Oklahoma to being a fighter jock in Germany and Edwards Air Force Base in California, Cooper tells the story of his all American life and his eventual selection as one of the...
Published on July 14, 2000

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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Houston, we have a problem...
Over the past few years I have rediscovered my fascination with the 1960s space race by reading several books by or about people connected with NASA back in those glory days. After reading "Leap of Faith" I have now read biographies of all the Mercury Seven astronauts. The good news is that Gordon Cooper's book is easily one of the most interesting. The bad news is that I...
Published on September 13, 2006 by Rand Higbee


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69 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiring Story from one who has the Right Stuff!, July 14, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown (Hardcover)
As one of the "Original Seven", Gordon"Gordo" Cooper describes his unique life experiences such asbeing the last American to ever fly into space alone. From his youth in Shawnee, Oklahoma to being a fighter jock in Germany and Edwards Air Force Base in California, Cooper tells the story of his all American life and his eventual selection as one of the original seven American astronauts. Flying the concluding mission of the Mercury Program in May of 1963 aboard Faith 7, Cooper flew what many consider to be the best and most successful flight of Mercury. He made a pinpoint landing in the Pacific after all his electrical and cooling systems in his spacecraft started to die on him. He manually flew his spacecraft to a perfect splashdown. He later commanded Gemini 5 with Pete Conrad aboard which set an 8 day endurance record in space,a record at that time. Finally, Cooper reveals how he was shortchanged by two of his buddies Deke Slayton and Alan Shepard when they denied Cooper a shot at commanding a lunar landing so Shepard could get a shot. In Deke's book, he hints that Cooper had lost the edge and had not trained hard enough in a backup role to merit a lunar landing. Judging by Cooper's successful Mercury and Gemini flights, Slayton's statement seems self serving and a bunch of bull. Cooper was as good a pilot as the rest otherwise he would not have been chosen as one of the first seven astrounauts. The second part of the book deals with Cooper's reported sightings of UFO's from the cockpit of his fighter plane in Germany. He continues on and discusses his fascination and belief in UFO's and relates some of the activities he has been engaged in trying to heighten the awareness of the UFO phenomenon. I have no clue about UFO's and that issue has never had much interest with me. However, Cooper does make a legitimate case that UFO's could exist. Certainly any open minded reader should read his treatment of UFO issues with interest. Certainly, Cooper has credibility and is not some nut case. Overall, this is a fine book. Anyone interested in the history of the early space program should have this book. Cooper makes a stinging critique of NASA that after the moonlanding, America lost interest in space exploration and all the dreams of the early space race have been lost. I agree. Cooper has made his mark in history, and his story is an inspiration for anyone that aims high.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES, GORDO, July 27, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown (Hardcover)
This man is one of the greatest heroes of the last half of the 20th century! If only for his tremendous flying abilities, which saved his life and maybe saved the space program when his Mercury capsule suffered a near-complete failure duing his mission. But there's much more to "Gordo" Cooper than just that incredible event. In this book he tells of his early days of flying, his remarkable test pilot experience, being chosen among the elite few for the space program, the testing and training regimen, the practice, practice, practice and then, finally, the exhilirating first lift-off and so much more, including chasing UFO's as a young Air Force pilot in Germany, and having a crew of photographers actually photograph a UFO at close range at Edwards Air Force base! Lots more fascinating stuff in this excellent book. Get it and read it, you'll like it! And you'll like him, too.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Houston, we have a problem..., September 13, 2006
By 
Rand Higbee (Hager City, WI United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Over the past few years I have rediscovered my fascination with the 1960s space race by reading several books by or about people connected with NASA back in those glory days. After reading "Leap of Faith" I have now read biographies of all the Mercury Seven astronauts. The good news is that Gordon Cooper's book is easily one of the most interesting. The bad news is that I don't exactly mean that as a compliment.

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.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to swallow..., September 21, 2000
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This review is from: Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown (Hardcover)
Holy cow! I thought this book would have been Gordo's reflections on being one of the Mercury Seven astronauts, similar to what John Glenn,Al Shepard, Deke Slayton, etc had written. In fact, only the first half of the book is about his Mercury days. The second half is a journey with Gordo into the world of the paranormal, as Cooper spends quite a lot of time with psychics, UFO fanatics, people who believe that they are being contacted by extraterrestrials, etc. Cooper is astonishingly accepting and uncritical of their stories. He says things like, "At first I was skeptical, but soon I started to believe that aliens were talking to her!" He never keys us into his thought process to show us how he was convinced and never lets us try to decide if these people were for real or just plain nuts (I assume the latter was the case).
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.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flawed crossbreed of astronaut biography and conspiracy yarn, February 22, 2002
This review is from: Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown (Hardcover)
Colonel Gordon Cooper is one of the Mercury Seven, the first group of American astronauts. A test pilot from Edwards Air Force base, he flew the last and longest of the pioneering Mercury missions, dubbed Faith 7, and later went into space a second time aboard Gemini 5. A maverick at heart, Cooper fell out of favour with some of the NASA higher-ups and left the agency after being denied command of a lunar landing mission.
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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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GORDO TELLS ALL, July 22, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown (Hardcover)
Gordon Cooper is one of America's true heroes, of a kind we don't have many of anymore. In this book, he and Bruce Henderson tell the story of the early days of the space program from the perspective of a real insider who knows what really went on and isn't afraid to talk about it. From his earliest days as a pilot (he learned to fly at the age of five!) to his fighter pilot and test pilot assignments to his astounding manual return flight in his Mercury capsule Faith 7 he proved himself to be one cool customer, and a natural at the controls. His current thoughts on the unresolved issues of UFO's and possible extraterrestrial visitations of planet Earth are insightful and provocative, especially coming from such a credible source. All in all, a smooth and compelling read and a great book. Bravo, Colonel Cooper!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Ride, July 30, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown (Hardcover)
Of the many books in my space collection (and I've got over 40 of them), this one took me on one of the the best rides of all. I have to agree with the majority of other reader/reviewers, Mr. Cooper is a hero for the ages. His recounting of the whole range of his experiences with NASA in the days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo has the distinct feeling of truth, no matter how unsugarcoated it might be. And his first-hand impressions of his fellow astronauts, albeit his "band of brothers", is one of the few clear pictures of those diverse (and not always heroic) personalities who launched America into space that I've read. Cooper's own personality flaws are also on display, but they don't undermine his unparalleled flying skills and remarkable coolness under pressure, as we get a first-hand look at his bringing home his Faith 7 capsule only seconds before it would have burned up as it re-entered the atmosphere at the conclusion of his record-setting voyage. He was cool, it was hot! It's also fascinating to read about his UFO encounters, his post-NASA life, and his hopes for a trip to Mars "when he's John Glenn's age". I found this to be a completely satisfying read, and hope this intrepid adventurer will write another book with even more details of his attempts to develop alternate energy sources that might well power our civilization into even more exciting explorations of space. Thanks for the ride, Gordo.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Al Shepard as Darth Vader? Naaaah., November 26, 2005
By 
Thomas J. Burns (Apopka, Florida USA) - See all my reviews
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This work has produced a rather hefty array of responses from Amazon readers, many of whom are stridently opposed to Cooper's career-long pursuit of the secrets of UFO's and other mysterious new technologies, and others who see in the Mercury astronaut a hero of what now appears to be a cause losing steam. Our focus here is on the book, however. For as several reviewers have correctly observed, this is a tale of two Gordo's, one battling the unknowns of space, and the other battling the knowns of the NASA/military industrial complex.

Unfortunately, neither tale is particularly compelling. The account of the astronaut's career, coming as it did in 2000, was the tail of the dog in a string of early astronaut autobiographies as the pioneers rushed to beat the Grim Reaper with their version of events. As to the second, Cooper's extensive research and observations about UFO's are not as deliciously crazy as some would like us to believe, either. In fact, some of his conjectures about alien propulsion systems and the like are rather fascinating to the layman.

While Cooper has been a busy man since leaving NASA thirty-something years ago, it would seem that something he neglected to do is read what others around the space program were writing in those three decades, and specifically what they were writing about him. One Amazon reader in this sequence of reviews reports to having collected 150 such volumes himself. The general consensus of post-Apollo writers seems to be that Cooper's years with NASA are somewhat enigmatic. One of the original seven Mercury astronauts, he was the last one to fly, a statement of sorts about how the NASA hierarchy regarded him. [Oddly, NASA's "the best shall be first" policy in Mercury resulted in Cooper's complex and spectacularly successful Faith 7 two-day marathon, the last flight in the Mercury series.]

Cooper and Pete Conrad would fly the Gemini 5 mission in the summer of 1965 to test fuel cells, endurance and, as the author observes wryly, defecation technique. But after Gemini 5, Cooper becomes an invisible man. He was designated to the back-up crews of three future flights, the last of which, Apollo 13, he turned down as a political slight.

So why did the hero of Faith 7 fall out of favor in succeeding years? This is the question most readers today would probably bring to the book. The author himself never does soul-searching about his own role in why his space career stalled. Instead he boils his dilemma down to two words: Al Shepard. Cooper believes that Shepard, embittered by his health problems and eager to get back into rotation, used his influence with Deke Slayton, then assigning crews, to keep the Mercury hero under the radar. Cooper's distrust of Shepard appears to date back to his Faith 7 days in 1963 when he asked Wally Schirra to privately tail Shepard, then Cooper's back-up, during pre-flight training.

Cooper cites the Shepard/Slayton cabal as symptomatic of the increasing bureaucracy of NASA, the military, and the federal government. He notes, for example, his complaint in a conversation with President Lyndon Johnson that his photography from Gemini 5 had been seized and classified. Johnson coolly informed him that he, the president, had given the order. It is important for the reader to observe keenly Cooper's misadventures with government entities, for they are of one weave with his later criticisms of government cover-up in the reporting of UFO sightings and general hostility toward individuals like himself at the outer margins of technology, from this world or another.

If Cooper feels that he was blackballed by Shepard and Slayton, what can we say of astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, Gene Cernan, and Pete Conrad, to name several whose careers thrived under the Slaton-Shepard regime? Lovell, in fact, flew four space missions [two Gemini, two Apollo] after Cooper's Gemini 5, and he is living proof that the "evil duo" was not completely adverse to the emergence of "stars" in the astronaut corps.

No, the answer to Cooper's dilemma is more personal, and probably reflects nagging doubts in NASA about Cooper's manageability and application to the growing complexity of the space business. In this Cooper was hardly alone. Nearly all of the original Mercury Seven had difficulty adjusting to a bigger astronaut corps, greater bureaucracy, public relations, politics, and the general idea of "teamwork." It is no accident that Schirra and Shepard, the two Mercury veterans to fly Apollo, each chose all rookie teams. [Walt Cunningham of Apollo 7 would refer to Schirra as "the cock of the walk."] Schirra himself found the new NASA so discomfiting that he passed on a sure moon landing assignment and retired.

Because Cooper does not really address his own career difficulties with insight, the charges of some historians that Cooper did not train or apply himself sufficiently will still be left to hang out there in the foreseeable future. This is regrettable, because Cooper, like his colleague Scotty Carpenter, was one of the true multidimensional human beings of the early space program. And I give him a great deal of credit for his respect of John Glenn and others for whom timing and luck made them national heroes.

Given Cooper's colorful space career, his subsequent employment by Disney, among others, comes as little surprise. The intrepid pilot of Faith 7 became--how can I put it?--a magnet for scientific entrepreneurs, some of remarkable brilliance, some eccentrics, and some undecipherable. Cooper apparently never lost touch with his astronaut friends, but he certainly picked up new ones along the way, including the mysterious clairvoyant and purveyor of character Valerie Ransone who seems to have preoccupied his personal and scientific attentions for a period in the 1980's. Perhaps if he had met Valerie in 1965, it would be Gordon Cooper making that giant leap for mankind.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One too many trips around the Earth, August 1, 2003
By 
G. Powell (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown (Hardcover)
The first part of this book is interesting. The whole Mercury program, the behind the scenes politicing, the trips into space. And then the book gets weird. It is always interesting when public figures give UFO accounts but it would have been nice to have some backup documentation rather than vague acusations about area-51 and the government hiding things. This government doesn't seem to be able to hide two people making out in an office nevermind capturing space aliens, transporting their ship somewhere, figuring out how it works etc etc. If two people can't keep a secret can the 100's that would have had to be involved in such a coverup keep a secret? Come on folks, this guy appears to have had one too many trips around the planet.
Anyway its light summer reading and like I said, the first part of the book is fine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cooper and the Saturn VIII, June 26, 2006
By 
Paul Carter (Huntsville, AL) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I too was first confused by Coopers reference to the Saturn VIII. After reading other books about Chris Kraft and Werner Von Braun, it dawned on me that he was referring to the Nova rocket that was on the drawing boards in the early sixties by Werner Von Braun. See the Wikipedea for more information. The Nova rocket was conceptualized before the powers that be decided on the LOR (Lunar Orbit Rendevous). Everybody, including Von Braun thought the best approach was the direct ascent, which was to land a rocket vertically and blast off from the moon and return home. The other option explored was (EOR) or Earth Orbit and Rendevous, where the componets for direct ascent were to be launched individually and assembled in earth orbit, then on to the moon. The winner, LOR, was scoffed, but through perseverance, it won out as the quickest way to get to the moon with the lightest payload. Therefore, the Nova (Coopers Saturn VIII) was never needed.

I'll admit this threw me for a while too. It was worded as if it existed. It never existed beyond the conceptual level. Wikipedia has a picture showing it having a 50' diameter first stage and 8 engines while the Saturn V had a 33' diameter first stage and 5 engines. The height would have been just 10' taller than the Saturn V. It would have been a beast at lift off.

I thought the UFO reference's a little far fetched, and I've read that the confication of film after the gemini lauch was improbable. Cooper says the film was developed right there on the recovery ship and I've heard this was never the procedure. Maybe he's right and their is a conspiracy after all!
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Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown
Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown by Bruce Henderson (Hardcover - July 3, 2000)
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