Astronaut Scott Carpenter, second American to orbit the Earth, dies at 88
Published October 10, 2013
Scott Carpenter, the fourth U.S. astronaut to fly in space and the second to orbit the Earth, died Thursday at a Denver hospice.
Carpenter’s wife, Patty, confirmed his death to Fox News. Carpenter, 88, of Vail, Colo., recently suffered a stroke.
Along with John Glenn, who flew three months before him, Carpenter was one of the last two surviving original Mercury 7 astronauts for the fledgling U.S. space program.
He was chosen in 1959 to be one of NASA’s first astronauts and flew on his one and only space mission on May 24, 1962, circling the Earth three times while conducting scientific experiments.
As an astronaut and aquanaut who lived underwater for the U.S. Navy, Carpenter was the first man to explore both the depths of the ocean and the heights of space.
Carpenter gave the famous send-off -- "Godspeed, John Glenn" -- when Glenn became the first American in orbit in February 1962.
Three months later, Carpenter orbited the Earth three times. He lost contact with NASA during the off-target landing but was found safely floating in his life raft 288 miles away.
The fallout from that missed landing was a factor that kept NASA from launching Carpenter into space again. So he went from astronaut to "aquanaut" and lived at length on the sea floor -- the only man to ever formally explore the two frontiers.
The launch into space was nerve-racking for the Navy pilot on the morning of May 24, 1962.
"You're looking out at a totally black sky, seeing an altimeter reading of 90,000 feet and realize you are going straight up. And the thought crossed my mind: What am I doing?" Carpenter said 49 years later in a joint lecture with Glenn at the Smithsonian Institution.
For Carpenter, the momentary fear was worth it, he said in 2011: "The view of Mother Earth and the weightlessness is an addictive combination of senses."
The Associated Press contributed to this report