ABOARD THE U.S.S. KEARSARGE, May 16--Maj. I. Gordon Cooper completed his 22-or bit space mission today, despite an electrical failure in his spaceship Faith 7 during the final orbits. Cooper landed in the Pacific at 6:24 1/2 p.m. (EST), only a minute and a half off schedule. By 7:11 he had stopped aboard the flight deck of this rescue ship-carrier.
President Kennedy immediately sent his congratulations. "It represents a great achievement for our society and a great achievement for free men," Kennedy said.
Cooper's journey had begun at 3:04 a.m. Wednesday, halfway around the world at Cape Canaveral, Fla. It ended 34 hours, 20 minutes and 30 seconds later, a 600,000-mile shot that hit almost directly on target--the astronaut came down just short of four miles from the Kearsarge and jokingly apologized for not getting closer. On ship, he was greeted by a red carpet, a band and a roar of cheers from 1,600 sellers.
On his 19th whirl around the earth Cooper had discovered that he was in trouble. A small green light went on unexpectedly; the light, used in connection with the pull of gravity, is supposed to flash only when the spacecraft is coming back into the earth's atmosphere.
As the last lap came, scientists determined that at least part of Faith 7's electrical system was gone. And just before the time came for the manual firing of rockets to slow the craft down before landing, the whole electrical system was reported out of order.
Landing the craft on his own, Cooper was coached from the ground by another astronaut John Glenn. The Faith 7 pilot remained in complete control until hitting the water, as nonchalant he had been earlier in the flight, when he almost fell asleep during the countdown, napped during his second orbit, and slept for around 7 1/2 hours during the night.
At Cape Canaveral, space agency officials were guarded about the possibility of an encore Mercury flight, saying that it might take several weeks to analyze Cooper's journey and determine if another is needed. Their reticence may be due to possible Congressional cuts in the proposed $5.7 billion space budget.