A cool article from the Mercury era. It’s amazing what the human mind can accomplish under pressure.
But a manual re-entry it was going to have to be. Cooper made his calculations, with help from the ground, based on his knowledge of star patterns. In the process, he disproved the “spam in a can” idea that Chuck Yaeger had famously derided when it came to the Mercury missions: Gordo was much more than simply an experimental body in a NASA-piloted spaceship. He put his education — and his environs — to use, drawing lines on Faith 7’s window to help him check his orientation against the constellations outside. He shifted from passenger to pilot. “I used my wrist watch for time,” Cooper later recalled, “my eyeballs out the window for attitude.”