Astronaut Gordon Cooper, one of the first men in space, repeatedly discussed his experiences with UFOs, and his belief that they were extraterrestrial in origin. In his later years, he even took part in efforts to get the governments of the world to release their knowledge of these events.
Cooper is no stranger to space, while with the Mercury program in the early 60’s, Cooper logged the longest spaceflight of the program, was the first American to sleep in space, and was the last American to complete an entire orbital mission solo. In total he spent over 222 hours in space, although he denies that he had any UFO sittings while with NASA. He says those experiences started earlier on in his Air Force career.
Cooper joined the Air Force in 1949, with his first flight assignment in Germany. There he says that for several days in row in 1951, he and his fellow pilots sighted “metallic, saucer-shaped vehicles”. In an interview with OMNI magazine in 1980, he said that he believed these craft to come from a “technologically advanced civilization.” He went on to say, “From my association with aircraft and spacecraft, I think I have a pretty good idea of what everyone on this planet has and their performance capabilities, and I’m sure some of the UFOs at least are not from anywhere on Earth.”
Another UFO incident Cooper was involved in while in the Air Force took place at Edwards Air Force base in California in 1957. There he was a test pilot and project manager. On May 3rd he had a crew setting up a camera system on a dry lake bed for filming rocket launches. Cooper was not present during the incident; however two of his crew members described seeing a saucer like craft hover over them and land 50 yards away. The craft extended three landing gears from its underside and settled on the lake bed in complete silence. As the men approached the craft it took off, again emitting no noise.
The men had their cameras and 35 mm movie film equipment and were able to capture the craft on film. Cooper said that there was a hotline to the Pentagon for these types of sightings, which he called. They told him to develop the film and package it up and that someone would come pick it up. Cooper developed the film, and said the pictures were very clear. He says his men documented what they had seen well, and sure enough the film showed a silver saucer shaped craft. He did not look at the movie film before the materials were picked up. He said he never saw or heard anything about the film again, and doesn’t know what happened to it.
Cooper eventually became outspoken about his belief that the government was covering up these sightings. He even advocated for disclosure, participating in documentaries and other efforts geared towards getting to the truth about UFOs. In 1977, when Sir Eric Gairy, then Prime Minster of Grenada, proposed to the United Nations that they create a department to gather information on UFOs from its member states, Gordon Cooper aided in the effort. In 1978, Cooper along with Gairy, UFO researchers J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, Leonard Stringfield and Claude Poher of the official French government’s UFO investigation group, visited the UN Secretary General, Kurt Waldheim, to discuss the matter. Antonio Huneeus of Open Minds Magazine has written a detailed story on this effort in the third issue of the magazine, which can be found here.
Although Cooper is an advocate for disclosure, he is still somewhat sympathetic to the government’s dilemma. In his OMNI interview he stated, “In defense of the military attitude, I can’t really blame them for being negative when I consider ridiculous things that have been said and written and the fact that the military is responsible for national security. It’s a little embarrassing to acknowledge they can’t explain some things.”
Unfortunately, Cooper passed in October of 2004 at the age of 77, after struggling with Parkinson’s disease. However, more about his experiences can be read in his memoirs, Leap of Faith. He devoted several chapters to his perspectives on the UFO situation.
Often the general public has the impression that UFO witnesses lack credibility. However, serious research often reveals this belief to be a misnomer. Cooper is a perfect example, along with many other military officers and even several other astronauts.