Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. (March 6, 1927–October 4, 2004), also known as Gordo Cooper, was an American aeronautical engineer, test pilot and NASA astronaut. Cooper was one of the seven original astronauts in Project Mercury, the first manned space effort by the United States. He was the first American to sleep in orbit, flew the longest spaceflight of the Mercury project, and was the last American to be launched alone into Earth orbit and conduct an entire solo orbital mission.
Cooper was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He grew up there and later moved to Murray, Kentucky where he attended public schools. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America and achieved the second highest rank of Life Scout. In 1945 Cooper turned down the possibility of a football scholarship to enlist in the Marine Corps but was too late to see combat in the Second World War. After completing three years of coursework at the University of Hawaii he received an Army commission. Cooper met his first wife Trudy (the only wife of a Mercury astronaut with a private pilot's license) while in Hawaii and they married in 1947.
Cooper transferred his commission to the Air Force in 1949, was placed on active duty and received flight training at Perrin AFB, Texas and Williams AFB, Arizona.