Mercury Astronaut Remembered

10-5-04 - LOS ANGELES (AP) One of the original Mercury astronauts who pioneered human space exploration, has died. Gordon Cooper was 77. The Shawnee, Oklahoma native died in his California home.

A fellow Mercury astronaut is mourning the death of Cooper Monday at his home in Ventura, California.

Wally Schirra told Associated Press Radio that Cooper suffered from heart problems, and showed symptoms of heart failure over the weekend. A medical examiner says Cooper died from natural causes.

Schirra says the original Mercury astronauts "were probably the most bonded seven men in the history of aviation and space and mankind." He says to lose another "is pretty tough for us."

Cooper was the youngest of the "Mercury seven," and maybe the cockiest. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe says Cooper "truly portrayed the right stuff."

Another top NASA official says "Gordon Cooper's legacy is permanently woven into the fabric of the Kennedy Space Center."