Gordon Cooper was part of the legendary "Mercury Seven," the first American spaceflight crew, assembled by President Eisenhower in 1959. Every man in this elite force is a national treasure, but Cooper made the list because of his incredibly cool-headed response to a major spaceflight disaster. When his ship, Faith 7, decided to flake out on him, Cooper took manual control and oriented himself against star patterns in order to strike the atmosphere at exactly the angle he needed to re-enter. A little too steep, and he'd be torn apart by g-forces. A little too shallow, and he'd skip off the atmosphere and into deep space, never to return. On top of everything, he was in a ticking clock situation, as the malfunction caused the carbon dioxide levels and temperature of his capsule to steeply rise. Despite all odds, he made it through. Extra badass tidbit: Dennis Quaid played Cooper in The Right Stuff, and apparently every line in the movie is directly attributable to Cooper.