Wired Science has a pretty awesome list of Botched Spacewalks, Crash Landings, and Smuggled Sandwiches: Spaceflight’s Most Badass Maneuvers. Here’s just one:
Astronaut Gordon Cooper, one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, probably wins as the most clear-headed and fast-thinking space pilot of all time. On the final manned Mercury mission in 1963, Cooper flew the Faith 7 spacecraft into orbit.
After nearly 20 successful trips around Earth, Faith 7 experienced a life-threatening malfunction. Carbon dioxide levels in the vehicle began to climb and the temperature jumped to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool as a cucumber, Cooper took manual control of the spaceship and estimated the angle he needed to approach for re-entry. By using star patterns, drawing lines on his window, and checking his wristwatch to keep time, Cooper calculated his orientation and fired his rockets at just the right time to land almost exactly by the ship waiting to pick him up.
Now that’s the stuff heroes are made of.