- uploaded: Jan 14, 2013
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Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. (March 6, 1927 -- October 4, 2004), was a 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. Later he also participated in the Gemini project.
Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. was the first American astronaut to claim to have seen UFO'S while flying over West Germany in 1951. Cooper was 30 and a captain at Edwards Air Force Base in California. On May 3 of that year, he had a crew setting up an Askania-cinetheodolite precision landing system on a dry lake bed. This cinetheodolite system would take pictures at one frame per second as an aircraft landed. The crew consisted of James Bittick and Jack Gettys who began work at the site just before 0800, using both still and motion picture cameras. The crew returned to base and reported to Cooper that they saw a "strange flying object in the shape of a saucer, it made no sound as it landed or on take off." They explained how the saucer hovered over them, landed 50 yards away from them using three extended landing gears and then took off as they approached for a closer look. Being photographers with cameras in hand, they of course shot images with 35mm and 4-by-5 still cameras as well as motion film. There was a special Pentagon number to call to report incidents like this. He called and it immediately went up the chain of command until he was instructed by a high ranking general to have the film developed and ordered not to make no prints of the footage, Cooper sent the film right away in a locked courier pouch. Cooper adds that he had been instructed not to look at the negatives before sending them.
He did not comply with this order and noted that the quality of the photography were excellent as should be expected from the experienced photographers who took them. What he saw was exactly what they had described to him. He expected that there would be a follow up investigation since an aircraft of unknown origin had landed in a highly classified military installation, but nothing was ever said of the incident again. Later in life Cooper said he was never able to track down what happened to those photos. He assumed that they ended up going to the Air Force's official UFO investigation, Project Blue Book, which was based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
He held claim until his death that the government is indeed covering up information about UFOs. He gives the example of President Harry Truman who said on April 4, 1950, "I can assure you that flying saucers, given that they exist, are not constructed by any power on Earth." He also pointed out that there were hundreds of reports made by his fellow pilots, many coming from military jet pilots sent to respond to radar or visual sightings from the ground. He was quite convinced till the day he died that he had seen UFOs and was a strong advocate to make the government come clean with what it knew.
In his memoirs Cooper wrote he had seen other unexplained aircraft several times during his career and also said hundreds of similar reports had been made, often by military jet pilots responding to radar or visual sightings from the ground. He further claimed these sightings had been "swept under the rug" by the US government.