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Second American astronaut to orbit Earth dies at 88

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Astronaut Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit Earth has passed away at the age of 88. One of the final members of the original Mercury 7 astronauts chosen by NASA, Carpenter died from complications after a stroke. Carpenter was a backup pilot for John Glenn ahead of America's first manned orbital space flight in February 1962.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "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 said. "We will miss him greatly."

With Carpenter's passing, John Glenn is the lone survivor of the Mercury 7. That team included Carpenter, Glenn, L. Gordon Cooper, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald "Deke" Slayton.

These astronauts came from an era where the United States played "catch-up" with the-then Soviet Union. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first person to orbit Earth in April 1961.

Born in Boulder, Colorado, Carpenter attended the University of Colorado where he studied aeronautical engineering. Retiring from the Navy in 1969, Carpenter has served fro two decades in the service of his country.

Carpenter explored underwater environments as an aquanaut in the Navy's Man in the Sea Project after NASA. He at one point lived and worked on the ocean floor for 30 days straight. He later served as director of the Navy's aquanaut operations.

"I still can't make up my mind whether I like outer or inner space better," Carpenter said prior to his passing. "But there's a difference in glory."

Carpenter's memoir, "For Spacious Skies: The Uncommon Journey of a Mercury Astronaut," was published in 2003. He also wrote two novels.

"He was one of the good guys and a good friend, a pioneer who made significant contributions to our country," Dick Gordon, command module pilot for Apollo 12 said.

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