This date, May 15th, marks an important date in the history of the American space program. Because it was on this day, back in 1963, that arguably the most successful, and final, Mercury spaceflight took place. Before this time, all of the other Mercury astronauts had flown, with the exception of Deke Slayton, who had a heart issue that disqualified him from flight back in the early days of the program. In fact, he was the only one of the original Mercury 7 who never flew in that program.
But Gordon Cooper got a chance to finish out the program by completing 22 earth orbits over a period of more than 34 hours in space. In fact, he eclipsed the previous record of 7 orbits relatively early in the flight and went on to land within 4 miles of the targeted landing zone – the best landing of any capsule in the Mercury program. There were many members of NASA who had suggested that the flight should never have been made, but the US was intent on pulling even with the Soviet space program and so the flight went as planned.
After the success of this flight, there were also a number of folks who wanted to really pull ahead of the Russians by flying another flight, with Alan Shepherd as the pilot, but the prospect of moving to the Gemini program prevailed, and that is what happened. The Mercury program had fulfilled all of its mandates and it was time to move from one pilot to two – hence the name Gemini, in honor of the constellation of the “twins.”
It is interesting to note the name of Cooper’s spacecraft – Faith 7. Each of the astronauts named his own capsule based on the message that he wanted to convey. Part of the name included the designation “7” in honor of the original mercury 7 astronauts.
Faith was an important part of the lives of many of the astronauts – and it should be important to us as well. The verse for this evening is from Hebrews and reminds us to stand firm in our faith. We are told, in Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ” My encouragement this evening is that faith is a lifelong journey. And you can pray for God to increase your faith – which I strongly encourage you to do. My prayer is that your faith will increase throughout all the days of your life and that you, like Cooper, will be proud to profess what it is that you believe in. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…