Early US Astronaut Scott Carpenter, 4th American in space, dies at 88

Friday, 11 October 2013 - 8:27am IST | Agency: Reuters
In 1959, NASA chose Carpenter and six other pilots to be astronauts in response to the Soviet Union's space programme. The only surviving member of that Mercury 7 team is John Glenn, 92, who went on to serve as a US Senator from Ohio for more than two decades.
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Scott Carpenter, who in 1962 became the fourth US astronaut in space and second American to orbit the Earth, died on Thursday in Colorado at age 88 of complications from a stroke, his wife Patty Carpenter said.

She said her husband died in a Denver hospice he had entered a number of days ago.

In 1959, NASA chose Carpenter and six other pilots to be astronauts in response to the Soviet Union's space programme. The only surviving member of that Mercury 7 team is John Glenn, 92,
who went on to serve as a US Senator from Ohio for more than two decades. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, and Carpenter was his backup on that mission.

Later that year, Carpenter made only one spaceflight, taking the Aurora 7 spacecraft on three laps around Earth on May 24, 1962, a few weeks after his 37th birthday. It was a flight of less than five hours and made him the fourth American in space and the second, after Glenn, to orbit Earth.

Carpenter, unlike his Mercury colleagues, had never been in a fighter squadron during the Korean War, instead flying mostly surveillance planes. Much of his flight time had been in multi-engine propeller planes, rather than jets.

"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.

Carpenter, a former gymnast known among colleagues for his fitness, had trained as the back-up to Glenn 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 Scott Carpenter but he used Scott as a first name.
 

Here are a few facts about Carpenter's life:

* Carpenter was commissioned in the US Navy in 1949. During the Korean War he flew missions in the Yellow Sea, South China Sea and the Formosa Straits.

* He underwent intensive training with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, specializing in communication and navigation. He served as backup pilot for John Glenn during the preparation for the first US manned orbital space flight in February 1962.

* Carpenter flew the second US manned orbital flight on May 24, 1962. He piloted his Aurora 7 spacecraft through three revolutions of the earth.

* Carpenter left the University of Colorado one credit short of a degree. After his spaceflight, the school decided to give him the degree anyway.

* On leave of absence from NASA, Carpenter participated in the Navy's Man-in the-Sea Project as an aquanaut in the SEALAB II program off California's coast in 1965. He spent 30 days
living and working on the ocean floor.

* Upon retirement from the Navy in 1969, Carpenter founded and was chief executive officer of Sear Sciences Inc., a venture capital corporation. He also worked with the French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and members of his Calypso team. Carpenter dived in most of the world's oceans, including the Arctic under ice.

* Carpenter appeared as television spokesman for General Motors, Nintendo, and Atari; and hosted and narrated television documentaries.

* In 2003, Harcourt published his memoir, "For Spacious Skies," co-authored with his daughter, Kristen Stoever.


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