So I learned on NPR this morning that astronaut Scott Carpenter died yesterday at the age of 88. Once I heard that, I knew I had to write about it for two reasons.
1. Mostly because a lot of people don’t really know who he was; he wasn’t the superstar astronaut that John Glenn or later Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became. Carpenter was part of the Mercury Seven, the first group of astronauts ever trained by NASA. He was the second astronaut to orbit the Earth, the fourth astronaut in space and (according to WIkipedia) the first to eat solid food in space. Compared to what came later, the Mercury Seven often get ignored and that’s a bit unfair to me. WIthout their accomplishments–which, among other places, are chronicled in the book and film The Right Stuff–we never would have gotten to the moon.
2. Yesterday was also my dad’s birthday. Now the thing about my dad is, he was born in 1964, not too long after the Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show, and he also grew up during the bulk of the Space Race. So naturally my dad was always interested in NASA and he’s read numerous books on the subject; during their honeymoon, my mom actually bought him a big coffee table book about NASA. Apollo 13 is also one of his favorite movies, by far; I swear I’ve walked in on him watching that movie on HBO more times than I can count.
So yeah, with that in my background, and my dad passing his interest in space travel onto me, I felt I had to acknowledge this. So on behalf of me, my father, and the nation as a whole, thank you, Mr. Carpenter for your service and dedication to science and to America. My thoughts and prayers go out to your family. Once again, thank you for everything and rest in peace. And as John Glenn put it today, “Godspeed, Scott Carpenter.”