One program ends, another begins

Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper always seemed to live on the edge. Not just the edge of space and adventure, but in testing the patience of his NASA bosses. He loved flying, and his enthusiasm was never more evident than when he finally heard that his pal Gus Grissom had successfully completed his suborbital trip into space.

Cooper was flying an F-106 chase plane over the Cape that day, and he wanted to show the officials below how he felt about his astronaut colleague’s safe return from the perils of space. When information was passed to him that the MR-4 mission had been a success he barreled across the Cape, over the heads of newsmen assembled at the press platform, then swung around for a second pass over the area. This time around he performed a slow victory roll, leading NASA’s somewhat bemused Public Affairs spokesman Lt. Col. ‘Shorty’ Powers to announce, “In case there is any doubt in anyone’s mind, that was a fellow astronaut who just came by in that F-106, celebrating.”1