Friday, January 25, 2008
1917 Jefferson Carried Aboard Mercury 9
This large paper US $2 note was flown by Colonel Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper Jr. within the pocket of his flight suit aboard Mercury capsule Faith 7, the last flight of the Mercury Program, and the longest US manned flight at that time. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 15, 1963, Tom and Gordo flew 22.5 orbits around the Earth (at an altitude of 165.9 by 100.3 statue miles) during an elapsed mission time of 34 hours, 19 minutes and 49 seconds. Together, they travelled 546,167 miles at a speed of 17,547 miles per hour. If you click on the scanned image, you will see that it was folded into 8ths so that Cooper could fit it snuggly into his flight suit. The bill is dated 1917, carries the serial number D92207287A, and bares Cooper's hand signed, flight certification to the lower right. According to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, this particular bill was one of over 146.4 million printed between January 25, 1922, and September 30, 1927. It is the only $2 bill known to have flown on this mission, as it was a singular and personal memento taken by Cooper for himself. (He also carried a $1 silver certificate as well in a similar fashion, so George was along for the ride to keep Tom company!) Given the availablity of more modern design Jeffersons at the time of the flight -- for example, the 1953 Series A bill flown on the Glenn flight -- I wonder what compelled Cooper to take this particular bill with him. Was the early 1917 date of significance to him? Was it a bill that was given to him by someone special? Was it a lucky charm -- since he kept it in his suit pocket, instead of stowed away in the capsule? And why a $2 bill?My personal belief is that Gordo's mission was scheduled for and achieved 22 orbits, the longest spaceflight at that time, and so he took a $2 bill and kept it with him on his person as a personal talisman and goodluck charm for the success of the mission with a double-2 goal on orbits. Since Colonel Cooper has passed away, we probably will never know the answer for sure. But one thing remains for sure. It is one of the more unusual and unique Jeffersons to have ever orbited the Earth during the Mercury program.