Astronaut Scott Carpenter dies ages 88
Fourth man in space has died in Colorado following complications from a stroke
Friday 11 October 2013
Astronaut Scott Carpenter, who in 1962 became the fourth American in space and the second to orbit the Earth, died on Thursday in Colorado at age 88 of complications from a stroke, his wife Patty Carpenter said.
Carpenter, who lost radio contact with NASA controllers during his pioneering space flight and was found in the ocean 250 miles from the targeted splashdown site, went on to explore the ocean floor in later years. His wife said he died in a Denver hospice.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration chose Carpenter and six other pilots to be astronauts in 1959 for the Mercury space program as the United States entered its space race with the Soviet Union. The only surviving member of that Mercury 7 team is John Glenn, 92, now a retired U.S. Senator from Ohio. In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, and Carpenter was his backup on that mission.
Later that year, Carpenter made his only spaceflight, taking the Aurora 7 spacecraft on three laps around Earth on May 24, a few weeks after his 37th birthday. The flight of less than five hours made him the second American to orbit Earth, and the experience stayed with him until the end of his life.
“I still remember what a thrill it was being up there - I liked the feeling of weightlessness, and the view I had of Earth,” Carpenter told the University of Colorado's alumni magazine last year.
The other Mercury astronauts had piloted fighter jets during the Korean War, but Carpenter mostly flew surveillance in multi-engine propeller planes.
“Scott was the only one with a touch of the poet about him in the sense that the idea of going into space stirred his imagination,” Tom Wolfe wrote in “The Right Stuff,” his best-selling book about the first astronauts.
A former gymnast known among colleagues for his fitness, Carpenter trained as Glenn's backup for NASA's first orbital flight. When Glenn blasted off on the Friendship 7 mission on Feb. 20, 1962, Carpenter sent him off with a simple yet poignant radio transmission: “Godspeed, John Glenn.”
Despite his fame as an astronaut, Carpenter spent considerably more time on the ocean floor than he did in outer space. In 1965, the astronaut became an aquanaut as part of the Navy's SEALAB II project, spending 30 days living and working at a depth of 204 feet (62 meters) off the California coast.
Born in Boulder, Colorado, he split his time between Vail, Colorado, and West Palm Beach, Florida, Patty Carpenter said. His given name was Malcolm ScottCarpenter but he used Scott as a first name.
Carpenter's space flight ran into problems upon re-entry to Earth's atmosphere, raising questions about whether he would make it back alive. His spacecraft had used too much fuel after he forgot to shut off one of the fuel systems.
After Carpenter fired the retrorockets to power his return, NASA controllers lost radio contact and feared a tragedy.
Aerial search teams eventually spotted Carpenter and the bobbing Mercury capsule - doing fine despite having ended up about 250 miles (400 km) off the splashdown target in the Atlantic.
When President John F. Kennedy called to congratulate him, Carpenter offered his “apologies for not having aimed a little better on re-entry.”
Suzanne Schirra, daughter of fellow Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra, who died in 2007, paid tribute on Thursday to the qualities shared by Carpenter and his colleagues on the program.
“I've never met anyone who came close to having the strength of character, devotion to country, zest for adventure or joy for life than those seven men,” she said.
Carpenter became the first American to eat solid food in space, a breakthrough since scientists were not sure how the digestive process would work in zero gravity. He dined on chocolate, figs, dates and cereal that had been compressed into cubes. He told mission control it tasted fine but left crumbs floating throughout his space capsule.
Since so little was known about spaceflight at the time, Carpenter's mission included relatively simple jobs such as releasing signal balloons, photographing clouds and observing flares fired from Earth.
He discovered that what Glenn had described as looking like “fireflies” around the capsule actually were illuminated ice particles formed by water vapor being vented into space.
“The most important driver in everything we did then was curiosity,” Carpenter told the Orange County Register in 2009. “It's revelatory. Addictive. Beautiful beyond description. To have been in space is very satisfying of one's curiosity. It's instructive. It's marvelous.”
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 Father of 12 accused of raping, beating, starving and abusing his own children in US 'cult'
- 4 Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
People are criticising Fifa World Cup sponsors with corrupt corporate logos
Natalie Portman tells Harvard graduates: 'Accept your lack of knowledge'
British tourists complain impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Fifa corruption live: Sebb Blatter warns 'more bad news may follow' as he clings to power
Skull found in Spain could be the world's first-ever murder victim
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...
£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...
£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...
£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...