Faith 7: Gordon Cooper's 1963 Mercury-Atlas 9 Launch in Pictures

Up and Away


The May 15, 1963 launch of the Mercury Atlas 9 Earth-orbital space mission carried astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. into orbit around Earth. The flight made 22 orbits of the planet in just over 34 hours in the Faith 7 capsule.

Watchful Eyes


During the Mercury Atlas 9 mission, astronaut Alan Shepard (left) and Flight Operations Director, Walter C. Williams track the progression of the mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida, inside the Mercury Control Center.



In the Mercury Control Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, Walter C. Williams, Flight Operations Director (standing) talks with Chris Kraft, Chief of the Flight Operations Division, MSC, about completing the full 22 orbits for the Mercury Atlas 9 mission.

Images of Earth


The 1963 Mercury Atlas 9 mission orbited Earth 22 times. During the flight, astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. photographed the Tibet and Kashmir regions. In the upper right of the image Lake Ch'in-Tzu-Hu is visible while in the center lower left Lake Yen Ko Ling-Ts can be seen. And in the center toward the top of the image the Korakaram mountain range is evident.

The Middle East


From the Faith 7 capsule during the 1963 Mercury Atlas 9 mission, astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. captured this image of Pakistan, eastern Iran and Afghanistan.

The Mighty Himalayas


While astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. made the historic 22 orbit Mercury Atlas 9 flight he had this fantastic view of the Himalaya Mountain Range on the borders of India, Nepal and Tibet.

Clouds, Shadows and Sand


West of New Delhi, India, the Great Indian Desert lay, speckled with clouds as astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. orbit the Earth in May of 1963 in the Mercury Atlas 9 capsule.

Tibetan Lake Country


Also during the Mercury Atlas 9 mission around Earth, astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. captured this image of lake country North of Katmandu and west of Ihasa in Tibet.

Splashdown Success


After over 34 hours and orbiting Earth 22 times, the Faith 7 spacecraft carrying astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. splashed down in the Pacific Ocean bringing the Mercury Atlas 9 mission to a successful conclusion.

Securing the Capsule


Following splashdown, a U.S. Navy frogman contacts astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., inside the capsule while two of his team members maneuver the flotation gear toward the Mercury Atlas 9 spacecraft in preparation to attach it. Both the main and reserved parachutes float near the capsule: the main chute is still attached and to the upper right and the ejected reserve chute sits to the lower left in the green dye area of the ocean.

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Christine Lunsford
Producer and Contributing Writer

Christine Lunsford joined the team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.