Hartwick College Unveils Archives of Space Writer Henry S.F. Cooper
The pioneering scribe of space exploration, Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr. (H’92), authored multiple books and articles for The New Yorker, covering everything from the Apollo mission in the late 1960s through the Space Shuttle program of the 1980s to the Magellan mission that circumnavigated Venus in the early 1990s. When he passed away in January, 2016, Cooper requested his extensive archive be donated to Hartwick College.
Today, the College announces the Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr. Manuscript Collection is available to the public and accessible for research.
Filling nearly 30 cubic feet, the Cooper collection contains a wealth of material chronicling the United States’ and Soviet Union’s efforts in space exploration from the 1970s – 1990s, according to Hartwick College Archivist Shelley Wallace. The collection, curated into 12 “series,” includes correspondence, memorabilia, audio tapes, and personal effects from Cooper's long and productive career, as well as articles on a variety of topics and exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History.
“The collection’s strength is in the numerous unique interviews Cooper conducted with both American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts, as well as the eight audio recordings documenting his conversations with Maxime Faget,” Wallace said. Faget was a pioneering aerospace engineer whose space capsule design was critical for the U.S. manned spacecraft program. He was the designer of the Mercury spacecraft, and later contributed to the Gemini and Apollo spacecrafts, as well as the Space Shuttle.
Other highlights of the collection include Cooper’s interviews with Russian cosmonauts regarding Soviet space exploration in general, and their unmanned space mission to Phobos – one of Mars’s two moons – in particular. Mars is also a major focus of the collection, and particularly timely with the recent touchdown of NASA's InSight Mars Lander on the Red Planet in late November.
In 1979, Cooper wrote two articles on Mars for The New Yorker, “The Search for Life on Mars I: Important, Unique and Exciting Things,” and “Mars II: A Residue of Doubt.” These became the foundation for The Search for Life on Mars (1980), which covered the Viking missions that probed Mars. Few have had such a profound impact in communicating this new and complex material to the masses. Cooper has written eight books, including A House in Space (1976), Apollo on the Moon (1969), and Imaging Saturn (1982).
He may be best known, however, for his prolific reporting for The New Yorker, including his regular column, “Letter from the Space Center.” “I have really been writing one story for The New Yorker for 25 years, which is about mankind's first steps into space,” Cooper once said.
He contributed to The New York Times Book Review and other publications, and was a consultant on the 1994 movie “Apollo 13.” Cooper received multiple accolades during his career. He was presented the Robert Ball Memorial Award, Aviation/Space from the Writers Association in 1973. He also earned a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1976; the Science Writers’ Award from AAAS/Westinghouse in 1981; the Eugene Emme Astronautical Literature Award from the American Astronautical Society in 1987; and, in 1992, he was given an Engineering Journalism Award from The Engineering Foundation.
He received an honorary doctorate from Hartwick College in 1992.
Cooper was also an environmentalist. He founded Otsego 2000, an environmental group, and campaigned against proposed industrial wind turbines, hydraulic fracking to extract natural gas, and a planned motorboat launch ramp for Otsego Lake. “Our father's professional focus was on the most distant places, but the place that meant the most to him ultimately was Cooperstown,” said Molly Cooper on behalf of her sisters, Elizabeth and Hannah. “He would be so happy to know his archive has ended up at Hartwick, and we're so grateful for the wonderful care they've taken with the collection.”
Cooper was a fifth-generation descendant of novelist James Fenimore Cooper, and a sixth-generation descendant of Judge William Cooper, founder of Cooperstown, NY. The Judge William Cooper Papers are also housed in the College’s archives, having been donated by Dr. Paul F. Cooper, Jr., for whom the Archives is named. Hartwick's Yager Museum of Art & Culture announced it will present an exhibition in late 2019 based on the Cooper Collection.