Scott Carpenter Dies: Astronaut Pioneer Was 2nd American to Orbit Earth

Image: Scott Carpenter Dies: Astronaut Pioneer Was 2nd American to Orbit Earth Scott Carpenter in 1961, left, and 2012.

Thursday, 10 Oct 2013 05:37 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Astronaut Scott Carpenter, who flew NASA’s second manned flight around the Earth in 1962, has died after a recent stroke.

With Carpenter’s death, John Glenn is the last living astronaut from NASA’s first group of astronauts, Mercury 7, NBC News said.

Carpenter was a backup pilot for Glenn when he became the first American to orbit earth in February 1962, and was the one to radio, “Godspeed, John Glenn,” as the flight took off.

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“When he went into orbit, instead of just worrying about being a test pilot, he was trying to analyze everything that was happening up there,” NBC News' Cape Canaveral correspondent Jay Barbree said. “That's why I call him the first scientist-astronaut.”

Carpenter broke his arm in a motorcycle accident just two years later and never made another space flight, NBC said. He also trained undersea, adding the title of aquanaut to his astronaut background, with the Navy SeaLab underwater training program.

In an NBC reflection on those first days of space exploration, Carpenter wrote in 1998, “Many unknowns became knowns. Spacecraft design was refined. Booster systems were polished, spacecraft systems were improved, and each spaceship that flew was a little better than the one that had preceded it. Each man who flew had the benefit of what the men who had gone before had learned, and we were in the space race in earnest.”

After retiring from the Navy in 1969, Carpenter founded Sear Sciences Inc., a company that worked to develop ocean resources and improve the planet’s health, a NASA biography said. Over the years, Carpenter wrote two books in the techno-thriller genre, “The Steel Albatross” and “Deep Flight.”

“We, the whole NASA family, are mourning with Scott's family. We have lost a true pioneer. I shall long remember him not only for his smarts and courage but his incredible humor. He kept us all grounded," NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told CNN. "We will miss him greatly."

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