Skip area navigation

Alum Shares about Space Flight Missions

December 18, 2008

Oklahoma Baptist University alum Don Cooper shared about his work with the Apollo space crafts with the students of Dr. Albert Chen, OBU professor of physics, while on campus to celebrate OBU's Homecoming Nov. 7. Cooper, a retired physicist, received an OBU Alumni Profile in Excellence award during the festivities.

During his talk with the students, "I mentioned that looking back I could see that God was there at major forks in my road of life, and we needed to pray, believe and use our brains," Cooper said. "One (student) told me that his mother died a few years ago, and he was encouraged by my story. It certainly made the trip worthwhile for me."

As a physicist for the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, Cooper solved problems involving the flight of space crafts. As a member of the Apollo 11 Mission Team, Cooper was a part of history when man landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Another significant achievement was making crash calculations for the legendary Apollo 13 mission.

As a student on Bison Hill, the 1960 graduate studied under Dr. Beryl Clotfelter and Dr. Eugene Lucas. Longtime OBU physics professor C.J. Halley also contributed to Cooper's education. Cooper recalled an incident in Halley's physics class in early October 1957, the day after the Soviets' Sputnik orbited the earth.

"Dr. Halley took our class out to an open area by the science building and demonstrated a water-powered rocket," he said. "I was not impressed. In fact, I remember being concerned that Dr. Haley would chase it into the street, be hit by a car, and I would miss lunch. Never did I dream that, five years later, I would create the equations to get us from earth orbit to the moon."

Cooper took graduate courses at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and in 1961 went to work for NASA. One of his assignments was development of targeting guidance equations to get Apollo 11 from Earth's orbit to the lunar coast trajectory. After working with NASA and TRW Systems Group, which was the technical contractor for Johnson Space Center, Cooper owned a business selling order entry systems and then was chief information officer for a pharmaceutical company. He retired in 2002.