Scott Carpenter

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Astronaut M. Scott Carpenter inspects the heat shield of his Aurora 7 space capsule

Malcolm Scott Carpenter (born May 1, 1925) was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts for Project Mercury, chosen in 1959 to lead America in its race to beat the Russians to the moon. He was the second American to orbit, and the fourth in space.

Born in Boulder, Colorado, Carpenter gained a bachelor of science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University Of Colorado. Commissioned in the U.S. Navy in 1949, he flew non-combat missions in the Korean War, attended the Navy Test Pilot School in Patuxent River in 1954, worked as a test pilot in the Electronics Test Division, and was later assigned as Air Intelligence Officer on the USS Hornet.

When he was chosen as one of the Mercury Seven, Carpenter was back-up pilot for John Glenn and when Deke Slayton was withdrawn on medical grounds from the second manned orbital flight of Project Mercury, Carpenter was assined to replace him. Carpenter flew into space on May 24, 1962, atop the Mercury-Atlas 7 rocket for a three-day mission. His Aurora 7 spacecraft attained a maximum altitude of 164 miles and an orbital velocity of 17,532 miles per hour.

Carpenter was fascinated by observing the Earth and the 'fire fly' particles of frozen liquid around the craft, which had been observed by John Glenn in the previous Mercury flight. Fuel consumption was a problem during the flight and a mis-timed re-entry burn resulted in the craft overshooting the planned landing point by 250 miles.

Just who was to blame for this is a matter of some dispute. Chris Kraft, who led the team of flight controllers seems to squarely blame Carpenter, a position which has been taken up by others in the flight controller community such as Gene Kranz. On the other hand, monitoring fuel consumption and other aspects of the vehicle operation was as much, if not more, the responsibility of the ground controllers as the astronaut, and organizational tensions between the astronaut office and the flight controller office which weren't resolved until the later Gemini and Apollo programs may be reflected in Kraft's assessment of Carpenter's performance during the flight.

He was never chosen to fly in space again, and was given an extended leave of absence to work on the Navy's Sealab project in which in 1965 he spent 28 days living on the ocean bed. He returned to work at NASA as Executive Assistant to the Director of the Manned Spaceflight Center, then returned to the Deep Submergence Systems Project in 1967, as a Director of Aquanaut Operations. Carpenter retired from the Navy in 1969, after which he founded Sear Sciences, Inc, a corporation for developing programs for utilising ocean resources and improved environmental health.


  • For Spacious Skies, ISBN 0151004676 or the revised paperback edition ISBN 0451211057 - Carpenter's memoirs co-written with his daughter; provides a first-hand account of his experiences as a pilot, a Mercury Astronaut, and his life after Mercury, including an account of what went wrong, and right, on the Aurora 7 spaceflight

External Links

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