October 11, 2013 – It is also a day to commemorate the second American astronaut to fly around the Earth, Scott Carpenter, who died yesterday at the age of 88. I grew up in the age of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo and Scott Carpenter, who had followed John Glenn into orbit, probably had one of the roughest rides during his 3 orbit flight in May of 1962. He ended up almost 400 kilometers (250 nautical miles) off course upon reentry and was off the radar and thought lost for the better part of an hour after landing in the Caribbean. Carpenter was blamed for much of the adversity he faced but what he experienced in spaceflight helped others who followed him to understand just how critical timing was to ensuring safety in this new realm of space.
The 1960s saw a massive investment in human spaceflight and Carpenter was just one of its many guinea pigs. Three others just six years later climbed on board a new spacecraft called Apollo 7 and began an 11-day shakedown mission in preparation for what was to follow, human spaceflight to the Moon and back. The astronaut crew included Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham. Schirra was one of the original seven from the Mercury astronauts and flew on all three American spacecraft developed in the 1960s. He was the first to fly into space three times. He died in 2007. Eisele on the other hand only flew once before retiring from NASA in 1972. He died in 1987. Cunningham was the third member of the astronaut corp who was not an active member of the military. He only flew once into space and is still alive.