In The News

Former astronaut Scott Carpenter passes away

Former astronaut Scott Carpenter passes away

FORMER astronaut Scott Carpenter, who was the second American to orbit Earth, has passed away at the age of 88.

Mr. Carpenter had been one of the original seven astronauts involved in NASA’s Project Mercury — they would later be immortilised in Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff.

His historic flight took place on May 24, 1962, when he orbited Earth three times on board the Aurora 7 spacecraft (see below). The flight, which lasted almost five hours, had not been without problems — a malfunction had resulted in his capsule splashing down in the Atlantic 250 miles from the planned landing zone. There were initial fears that he had been lost, but the capsule was located and he was airlifted to safety.

Later, in a telephone call with President Kennedy, Mr. Carpenter had apologised for “not having aimed better”. 

The path to becoming a hero of the space programme had not been smooth. He later reflected on being a “no-good” as a young man, having twice dropped-out of college. Indeed, it was while recovering from injuries suffered in a serious road accident that the young Carpenter had decided to get his life together. He returned to university and after graduation became a Navy pilot.

Before joining Project Mercury, Mr. Carpenter had been been serving as an air intelligence officer which had followed a period as a test pilot. 

In the end, he would only have one flight in space, although his later work with NASA included helping to design the Apollo lunar landing module. In 1965, while on leave from NASA, he set a record by spending 30 consecutive days living in an underwater capsule as part of a Navy experiment.

He retired in 1969 and went on to establish an oceanographic research company.

Mr. Carpenter passed away in Denver. He had suffered a stroke in September. 

The first American in space, John Glenn, whose flight had taken place three months before Mr. Carpenter’s, led tributes to his old friend and colleague. In a statement Mr. Glenn said: “History books will remember him as an explorer of the heavens and the seas.”

To view archive footage of Scott Carpenter’s space flight, click here.

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