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Godspeed, Scott Carpenter
October 10, 2013 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Scott Carpenter has died at 88. As the commander of Aurora 7 in 1962, Carpenter was the second Mercury astronaut to orbit the Earth. He is best known for having wished his friend John Glenn "Godspeed" as the latter launched into orbit.

"I volunteered for a number of reasons. One of these, quite frankly, was that I thought this was a chance for immortality. Pioneering in space was something I would willingly give my life for." - Carpenter as excerpted in the book "We Seven"

His death leaves John Glenn as the only surviving member of the original Mercury 7 astronauts.

Carpenter was also known as the only astronaut who also served as an aquanaut aboard SeaLab II. In fact, he broke the record for most time spent in the underwater laboratory by staying for 30 days.
posted by zooropa (61 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Fists O'Fury at 2:07 PM on October 10, 2013


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posted by jazon at 2:07 PM on October 10, 2013


The Right Stuff left me with a strong feeling that Scott Carpenter was the only one of the Mercury 7 that I'd actually like to get to know. Seemed like a good human being.
posted by COBRA! at 2:08 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


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posted by Joey Michaels at 2:15 PM on October 10, 2013


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pusher of envelopes, rider of ultimate hot rods
posted by philip-random at 2:16 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by stoneweaver at 2:51 PM on October 10, 2013


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(A star, not just a pale blue dot.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:55 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by smoothvirus at 2:58 PM on October 10, 2013


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posted by Ber at 2:59 PM on October 10, 2013


"At no time, when the astronauts were in space were they alone: there was a constant surveillance by UFOs."
posted by rough ashlar at 3:20 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


My god, it's full of . . . . . .
posted by chavenet at 3:25 PM on October 10, 2013


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posted by Mercher at 4:16 PM on October 10, 2013


Scott was most definitely the one astronaut (of the original 7) who truly marched to the beat of a different drummer. He even went so far as to refer to said drummer personally: "My drummer told me..." etc.

From the very instant he lifted off, he was interested in reporting the *experience* of being an astronaut in space. To wit:

"I feel the liftoff, the clock is running."

How very different, and uncharacteristic this was for an astronaut to say, as opposed to the usual "we have liftoff."

From then on, he was constantly interested in absorbing as much of the experience as possible, nearly to the point of distraction. He reported on the view from the capsule, the feeling of weightlessnes, his thoughts as he orbited the Earth, and various experiments he was to carry out. He spent so much time trying to figure out what the "fireflies" Glenn had described were (waste water from the capsule) that he missed his re-entry window by several seconds, and had used up most of his attitude control fuel.

Kris Kraft, head of the entire program, put it thusly: "He's damn lucky the whole thing didn't come down bass-ackwards."

Fortunately, he made a safe landing, albeit many miles downrange from his designated landing zone. When they finally located him several hours later, there he was: relaxing in his raft, eating a snack. Cool as a cucumber. (and not, as the press had reported "disoriented and confused."

Kraft made sure Carpenter never flew again, but many of the astronauts agreed that he got more experience out of his single flight than anyone else in the Mercury program.

Here's Scott telling a cute story about the naming of his capsule.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:27 PM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Here's where a lot of my anecdata are coming from: Moonshot. (link picks up from where Carpenter's flight is discussed)
posted by ShutterBun at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by samofidelis at 4:42 PM on October 10, 2013


A brave life, and a great legacy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:44 PM on October 10, 2013


Life magazine photo set
posted by maggieb at 4:58 PM on October 10, 2013


P.S. He was pinup handsome, imho
posted by maggieb at 5:21 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by Brodiggitty at 5:22 PM on October 10, 2013


He spent so much time trying to figure out what the "fireflies" Glenn had described were (waste water from the capsule) that he missed his re-entry window by several seconds, and had used up most of his attitude control fuel.

Nah, there was a malfunctioning pitch horizon scanner (PHS), which forced Carpenter to retrofire manually. This required two pushes of a button, which only accounted for about 30 miles of the 250m overshoot. The rest was attributed to the PHS jerking the spacecraft about 170 miles off target. Then the something in the retro rockets went malfunctioned, accounting for another 50-60 miles.

Carpenter made a few errors, but he also had to deal with a malfunctioning spacecraft and did a damn fine job of doing so.

Kraft made sure Carpenter never flew again...

In Kraft's autobiography, he comes off as a control freak and having a severe dislike for Carpenter not towing the line on his flight. Which is understandable, the early astronauts were used to be flying their own planes and being in complete command, so bumping of heads was to be expected.

But Kraft was was quite harsh in his book, such as lambasting for not having a college education. Yet he didn't mention that Carpenter was only a short by a credit (because he missed his final exam). Kraft also neglected to mention that Carpenter's university awarded him a degree after his space flight, 'cause they figured his training as an astronaut more than made up for that final exam.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:54 PM on October 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


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posted by Kinbote at 6:05 PM on October 10, 2013


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posted by sfts2 at 6:08 PM on October 10, 2013


Carpenter not towing the line on his flight
Poetic turn of phrase, Brandon Blatcher.
posted by maggieb at 6:09 PM on October 10, 2013


Yeah, Kraft was most definitely a control (I hesitate to use the word "freak") focused personality. A couple of other times he butted heads with astronauts were during flights. During Gemini IV he nearly broke in to the air-to-ground loop to tell Ed White to get back in the capsule. (something that was unheard of) and again during Apollo 7 (the infamous "mutiny in space" flight) wherein Wally Schirra refused to wear his helmet during re-entry, due to a head cold he was suffering.

I had forgotten that anecdote about Carpenter's college degree. Thanks for reminding us!

Truly one of a kind.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:22 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by DigDoug at 6:46 PM on October 10, 2013


88--that's a pretty good run.

2 of his quotes referencing death:
“What people don't fully realize is that we view ourselves as expendable in the pursuit of a high purpose, ... If he or anyone else should perish, that's okay. We've recovered from it before and we will again.”

“We're all facing the Grim Reaper, ... It's like John Denver put it in one of his songs -- 'Live, live without care.'”



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or maybe * would be more apropos
posted by BlueHorse at 6:52 PM on October 10, 2013


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posted by wrapper at 7:21 PM on October 10, 2013


His death leaves John Glenn as the only surviving member of the original Mercury 7 astronauts.

That sentence is haunting me.
posted by DigDoug at 8:21 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


wasn't he one of those that professed UFO's?...oh, no. wrong one....

he got a park named for him in Boulder....God bless him....yeah...God...
posted by eggtooth at 9:19 PM on October 10, 2013


A huge loss of a great hero. Stop! You're making me feel O. L. D. !

I used to be allowed to stay home to watch launches. My little sister and I would make peanut butter marmalade sandwiches and Tang or Kool-Aid, or we made scary egg-nog with Kool-Aid as an ingredient. We'd watch the never-ending count-down.
We really loved all the astronauts and even the cosmonauts.



posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:19 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


....a huge loss of a great cog in a great machine.
posted by eggtooth at 9:25 PM on October 10, 2013


....I mean....if you think of cogs in a machine as that great....
posted by eggtooth at 9:39 PM on October 10, 2013


The only Malcolm in space.
posted by pracowity at 12:56 AM on October 11, 2013


o (air bubble)
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The years pass so damn quickly any more...
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posted by tilde at 7:44 AM on October 11, 2013


I knew his daughter in the 1980s; she lived across the street from me in Adams-Morgan. Later, she wrote a book about her father, For Spacious Skies.
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posted by radwolf76 at 9:44 PM on October 11, 2013


Oh, no. .
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posted by cman at 11:21 AM on October 12, 2013


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