One of the original “Mercury 7” astronauts, Scott Carpenter, has died. He was the sixth person to fly in space; the fourth American to fly in space and the second US astronaut to orbit Earth. Carpenter died on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at age 88 after suffering a recent stroke. With the death of Carpenter, the only remaining surviving member of the original US astronauts is John Glenn.
collectSPACE is reporting that Carpenter was being cared for at a hospice center in Denver when he passed. Carpenter was initially expected to make a full recovery from the stroke, but his condition worsened this week, sources close to his family shared.
Carpenter was chosen as an astronaut in 1959. He launched in his Aurora 7 capsule on May 24, 1962 in the fourth manned mission and the second orbital flight of the Mercury program. The video below celebrates the Aurora 7 flight, which successfully made three Earth orbits. But a targeting mishap during reentry took the spacecraft about 400 km (250 miles) off course, delaying recovery of Carpenter and the capsule. Carpenter was picked up after nearly 3 hours in the water, and the Mercury capsule was not retrieved until about 6 hours later.
Carpenter said of his flight, “The zero-g sensation and the visual sensation of space flight are transcending experiences, and I wish everybody could have them.”
Carpenter was born on n May 1, 1925. He is survived by his wife, seven children, two step-children and six grandchildren.
Fifty years ago today, May 24, 1962 astronaut Scott Carpenter launched in his Aurora 7 capsule. This was the fourth manned mission and the second orbital flight of the Mercury program. This video celebrates the Aurora 7 flight, which successfully made three Earth orbits. But a targeting mishap during reentry took the spacecraft about 400 km (250 miles) off course, delaying recovery of Carpenter and the capsule. Carpenter was picked up after nearly 3 hours in the water, and the Mercury capsule was not retrieved until about 6 hours later.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – 50 Years ago this week, Alan B. Shepard became the first American to be launched into space. Shepard blasted off on May 5, 1961 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA and the US Postal Service honored Shepard’s historic achievement today (May 4) at an Official First-Day-of-Issue dedication ceremony at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Alan Shepard was one of the seven Project Mercury astronauts – who will be collectively known for all eternity as – “The Original 7”.
The US Postal Service simultaneously released two new 44 cent Forever Stamps at today’s commemoration, which bookend two historic space achievements – Shepard’s inaugural manned spaceflight aboard the Mercury capsule and NASA’s unmanned MESSENGER mission which recently became the first probe from Earth to achieve orbit about the Planet Mercury.
Fellow Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter attended the ceremony and unveiled the stamps along with Steve Masse, United States Postal Service Vice President of Finance at the Rocket Garden at the KSC Visitor Complex.
“Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of many, many important issues, among them is the first steps from the home planet that were taken by the family of man,” said Carpenter.
Although Shepards suborbital flight aboard the one man “Freedom 7” Mercury capsule lasted barely 15½ minutes, the flight ignited America’s Moon landing effort and propelled American Astronaut Neil Armstrong to become the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission – one of the crowning technological achievements of the 20th Century.
The success of “Freedom 7” emboldened President John F. Kennedy to declare that America “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” just three weeks later on May 20.
“That was largely a response to Alan’s success,” Carpenter told the crowd of assembled officials, journalists and visitors. Also on hand for the stamp dedication was Shepard’s daughter Laura Shepard Churchly; Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator and former shuttle astronaut; Bob Cabana, KSC Director and former shuttle astronaut; and Jim Adams, NASA deputy director, Planetary Science.
“A decision was made not to put 44 cents on the stamp, but it is forever,” Carpenter emphasized. “It is appropriate to the time we should honor and remember Alan B Shepard and Freedom 7.”
Shepard’s tiny capsule measured just six feet by six feet, reached a maximum speed of 5,100 MPH, roughly eight times the speed of sound, and a zenith of 116 miles above the Earth. Freedom 7 was bolted atop a Redstone rocket that generated only 78,000 pounds of thrust, followed a ballistic arc and landed 300 miles down range in the ocean.
“These stamps, which will go out by the millions across this country, are a testament to the thousands of NASA men and women who shared dreams of human spaceflight and enlarging our knowledge of the universe,” said Bolden.
Shepard’s flight and MESSENGER both blasted off from launch pads quite close to one another at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station which is adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center.
On Thursday May 5, watch for my on site coverage of NASA’s special ceremony marking the 50th Anniversary of Shepard’s milestone “Freedom 7” mission – and an interview with Scott Carpenter.
Shepard’s mission came barely three weeks after Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth. The bold flights of these brave Cosmonauts and Astronauts – backed by a few insightful political leaders – began the Era of Human Spaceflight. As the shuttle program winds to a close, the future of US Human Spaceflight is very uncertain.
Read my related articles about Yuri Gagarin and the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight: