On May 15, 1963, Gordon Cooper is launched into space aboard Faith 7 on the longest American space mission to that date. Faith 7 was the capstone of Project Mercury, the NASA program that put the first American into space in 1961 and the first astronaut into orbit in 1962. Cooper completed 22 orbits of the earth and spent 34 hours in space. He was the first American astronaut to spend more than a day in space. On the afternoon of May 16, Faith 7 landed safely in the Pacific Ocean, four miles from the recovery ship Kearsarge.
Cooper was honored by parades in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., where he addressed a joint session of Congress, and in New York City, where he was greeted by a massive ticker-tape crowd. Later Shawnee, Oklahoma–Cooper’s hometown–celebrated the return of the sixth Mercury astronaut from space.