Skip to main content

Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter dies at 88

By Dana Ford, CNN
October 13, 2013 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Astronaut Scott Carpenter listens to a question from the media about his experience in space, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 17, 2012. Carpenter, the second American to orbit the Earth and one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, died Thursday, October 10. He was 88. Astronaut Scott Carpenter listens to a question from the media about his experience in space, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 17, 2012. Carpenter, the second American to orbit the Earth and one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, died Thursday, October 10. He was 88.
HIDE CAPTION
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
Astronaut Scott Carpenter
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Carpenter suffered complications after a stroke
  • John Glenn is the lone survivor of the Mercury Seven
  • "We have lost a true pioneer," says NASA administrator
  • Carpenter was the second American to orbit Earth

(CNN) -- Astronaut Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit Earth, died Thursday, NASA said. He was 88.

"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," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. "We will miss him greatly."

Carpenter was one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts chosen by NASA, which said he died from complications after a stroke. He was a backup pilot for John Glenn ahead of America's first manned orbital space flight in February 1962.

Carpenter flew the second American manned orbital flight in May of that year. Flight time was four hours and 54 minutes, according to a NASA biography.

NASA celebrates 50 years in orbit
Click through to see people who passed away in 2013. Click through to see people who passed away in 2013.
People we lost in 2013
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: People we lost in 2013 Photos: People we lost in 2013

Carpenter's spacecraft overshot its landing target by some 250 nautical miles, giving rise to fears about his fate.

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

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first person to orbit Earth in April 1961.

'Pioneer' of inner and outer space

Carpenter was born in Boulder, Colorado, and attended the University of Colorado, where he studied aeronautical engineering. He retired from the Navy in 1969, after some two decades of service.

Post-NASA, Carpenter explored underwater environments as an aquanaut in the Navy's Man in the Sea Project -- at one point living and working 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 last year -- adding with a smile, "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," said Dick Gordon, command module pilot for Apollo 12.

People we've lost in 2013

CNN's John Zarrella contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
January 6, 2014 -- Updated 0030 GMT (0830 HKT)
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 0055 GMT (0855 HKT)
Actor James Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil on the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died. He was 67.
January 1, 2014 -- Updated 1959 GMT (0359 HKT)
Dr. John W.V. Cordice, the surgeon who operated on Dr. Martin Luther King after he was stabbed in Harlem in 1958, died in Iowa. Cordice was 95.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 0128 GMT (0928 HKT)
Joseph Ruskin died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital. He was 89.
January 1, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
Jeffrey Ian Pollack, who directed the popular 1990s films "Booty Call" and "Above the Rim" and produced "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has died. He was 54.
December 23, 2013 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian gun designer whose AK-47 rifle became the weapon of choice for many national armies and guerrillas around the world, died.
December 22, 2013 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Ned Vizzini, who shot to fame at a young age for his teenage novels focusing on youth depression and anxieties, committed suicide at age 32.
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Al Goldstein, the foul-mouthed publisher of Screw magazine and pornography pioneer died in New York. He was 77.
December 31, 2013 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
Actor Daniel Escobar, who played a teacher in "Lizzie McGuire," died from complications of diabetes in Los Angeles. He was 49.
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 0041 GMT (0841 HKT)
"Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs -- one of the most notorious British criminals of the 20th century -- has died, his publisher told CNN. He was 84.
December 17, 2013 -- Updated 0117 GMT (0917 HKT)
Ray Price, the Nashville star whose trademark "shuffle" beat became a country music staple, has died at age 87, his agent said.
December 17, 2013 -- Updated 0223 GMT (1023 HKT)
Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine died, her longtime friend Noel Beutel said. She was 96.
December 16, 2013 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
Actor Peter O'Toole died peacefully in a hospital at 81 years old.
December 16, 2013 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
Tom Laughlin, the actor who wrote and starred in the "Billy Jack" films of the 1970s, died at age 82.
December 12, 2013 -- Updated 0056 GMT (0856 HKT)
Jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who played with the jazz greats of the 20th century and influenced the younger ones, has died, his family said. He was 83.
December 10, 2013 -- Updated 1346 GMT (2146 HKT)
Actress Eleanor Parker, nominated for three Oscars and known for her "Sound of Music" role, died Monday at 91, her family said.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
Freedom fighter, statesman, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
Bill Beckwith, who co-hosted HGTV home-improvement show "Curb Appeal," has died. He was 38.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
Actor Paul Walker, who shot to fame as star of the high-octane street racing franchise "Fast & Furious," died in a car crash in Southern California. He was 40.
November 30, 2013 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Paul F. Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, died at age 79.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 2342 GMT (0742 HKT)
Jane Kean, who played diverse roles during a long career but was best known as Trixie on the TV revival of "The Honeymooners," has died. She was 90.
November 25, 2013 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Singer Wayne Mills, whose "outlaw country" songs center on honky-tonk life, died in a Nashville bar shooting.
ADVERTISEMENT