America lost a hero yesterday with the death of astronaut Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit the Earth. He had recently had a stroke and was living in hospice care, he was 88 years old. His death leaves John Glenn as the only Mercury Seven astronaut still alive. The Mercury Seven Astronauts were the first seven American astronauts which included the first American in space Alan Shepard, the second American in space Gus Grissom, the first American to orbit the Earth John Glenn, the second American to orbit the Earth Scott Carpenter plus Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper and Deke Slayton.
While I was trying to do research on Carpenter I started off with a brick wall, NASA’s web site is shuttered due to the U.S. Government’s shutdown and inability to play nicely. Reading through various stories I came across a passage out of Christopher Kraft’s memoir, Kraft was the Flight Director for Carpenter’s lone space mission, and apparently Carpenter made some serious errors while returning which led to him landing over 250 nautical miles from his intended landing zone. Initially he was considered DOA until a Navy search plane saw his life raft 40 minutes later and was able to direct the recovery team. NASA officials made it clear they had no intent on allowing Carpenter to fly again, which he never did.
Following his time as an astronaut Carpenter continued to work with both NASA and the Navy working as an aquanaut in the Navy’s Sealab project, he actually spent 30 days on the ocean floor, and helping set up NASA’s underwater training project to prepare astronauts for spacewalks.
He may not have been the first American in space or on the moon but his contribution to science has helped advance the space program. Carpenter also became a part of Pop Culture lore with the publication of Tom Wolfe’s novel “The Right Stuff”, a novel about the Mercury Seven, which was later made in to the 1983 film also named “The Right Stuff”.
Carpenter has shown up on cardboard a couple of times beginning with the 1963 Topps Astronauts release and most recently in Panini’s Americana releases, which include both relics and autographs. His early Topps cards can be found in the $25-50 range, his base Panini Americana cards are only a couple of dollars but if you are looking to add any of his autographs or relics to your collection you should expect to spend well over $75 and most likely closer to $150-200 now with his passing.