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Human Spaceflight

Scott Carpenter – A tribute to a curious but ordinary superman

Scott Carpenter – A tribute to a curious but ordinary superman

“Conquering fear is one of life’s greatest pleasures and it can be done in a lot of different places.

– Scott Carpenter, May 1st 1925 – October 10, 2013-

Scott Carpenter, a curious but ordinary superman. Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Scott Carpenter, a curious but ordinary superman.
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

 

One of only two remaining Mercury Program Astronauts from the 60’s, Scott Carpenter, sadly passed beyond the veil on Thursday October 10th 2013 following a stroke in September. He was 88 years of age. Carpenter was one of the earliest pioneers in the infancy of the Space Age. He was the 2nd American to cross the threshold into orbital space on his MA-7 “Aurora 7” spaceflight and the 6th man overall.  He also held the unique distinction of being not only an astronaut but an aquanaut following his NASA career in the US Navy’s various Sea Lab projects.

For each last step, there is a first step. Born in Boulder, Colorado, USA on May 1st 1925, Malcolm Scott Carpenter was impressed by planes at the age of 5 when his father took him to his first airshow. His love of flight grew as he continued to build and fly model balsa wood plane kits as a boy. He gained a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Colorado, before entering flight school with the US Navy at Pensacola Florida and Corpus Christi Texas. After the Korean War where he flew aerial anti-submarine surveillance and patrols, Carpenter enrolled at Patuxent River’s Navy Test Pilot School in Maryland. Following this, he was assigned as an Air Intelligence Officer on the USS Hornet. During this time he received special orders to report to Washington DC for an unnamed meeting. That meeting led to his selection in Project Mercury on April 9, 1959, which was instituted as the newly formed NASA’s first step to catch up to the Soviets who had taken an early lead in the rapidly escalating Space Race.

What followed is fabled history. The exhaustive raft of testing of 110 candidates down to what are now known as the “Original Seven” and Carpenter formed part of that elite fraternity of Mercury Astronauts. Their every move was recorded and lauded by the public at large as the nascent American Space Program took its initial steps forward. Due to his communications and navigation experience Carpenter was back-up on his good friend John Glenn’s orbital flight. Upon launch, as Glenn cleared the tower, Carpenter’s words of “Godspeed John Glenn” were recorded and have echoed through the years of spaceflight history. Carpenter repeated this goodwill message when Glenn went into orbit again aboard the Shuttle in 1998.

The brotherhood of the Original Seven. Front row, from left, are Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald "Deke" K. Slayton, John Glenn Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter. Back row, from left, are Alan Shepard Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, and Gordon Cooper. Credit: Discovery News / CORBIS

The brotherhood of the Original Seven. Front row, from left, are Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald “Deke” K. Slayton, John Glenn Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter. Back row, from left, are Alan Shepard Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and Gordon Cooper.
Credit: Discovery News / CORBIS

On May 24, 1962, Carpenter’s own flight dubbed “Aurora 7” launched and completed 3 orbits of the Earth. His mission; to prove a human could work in space. This was an important link in the chain of events which ultimately resulted in a manned landing on the moon just 7 short years later. For the first time he demonstrated humans could perform tasks, experiments, communications, navigation and eat solid food in space. Due to some technical faults, inadvertent errors during the mission, all of which Carpenter compensated for, Aurora 7 came home safely but overshot the target landing zone due to fuel mismanagement during the mission. He was found by rescuers almost 5 hours late, 1000 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral, coolly relaxing in the life raft alongside his spacecraft.  Ever the gentleman astronaut he even offered his rescuers food and water from his survival kit.

The launch of Scott Carpenter on Aurora 7. Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

The launch of Scott Carpenter on Aurora 7.
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Looking out for John Glenn's fireflies... Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Looking out for John Glenn’s fireflies…
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Carpenter, awaiting recovery after splashdown. Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Carpenter, awaiting recovery after splashdown.
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

As with many space explorers who are comfortable with the risk of space exploration, Carpenter had remarked that his mission realised a long held dream and that “This is something I would gladly give my life for.” In today’s modern world of Google Earth and armchair exploration, we should remember that back then it took a special kind of person to ride fire into the heavens to expand knowledge at risk of their own life. Unlike many of his Mercury astronaut peers who were recovered and debriefed after their space shots relatively quickly, Carpenter had time for introspection and reflection on the events and meaning of his experience on Aurora 7. Carpenter was also blessed with a curious and philosophical mind. Peering through the small periscope of Aurora 7 into the endless night outside, Carpenter remarked,

“From that view … you are a long way away. Everything you see gives you satisfaction of the expectation which involves curiosity. The most important driver in everything we did then was curiosity. Can we make machines do this? Can we put our bodies through this? It’s revelatory. Addictive. Beautiful beyond description. To have been in space is very satisfying of one’s curiosity. It’s instructive. It’s marvellous.”

At the time, some may have perceived those comments and qualities to be extraneous for a test pilot / astronaut, favouring engineering rigour and zero margin of error during those early missions.  Consequently, Carpenter never flew in space again. In later years his curiosity and philosophical mind have become more appreciated by his peers.

Following NASA, Carpenter’s curious mind to banish unknowns led him to meeting with the French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. He saw many parallels, between deep space and the deep ocean, with transferable skills, technologies and parallel experiences. But more personally for him, like with his Mercury flight, working beneath the waves to satisfy his curiosity would remove any “unreasoned fears”, just as he had done above the clouds on Aurora 7. As part of the Navy’s Sea Lab II experiment, Carpenter spent 30 days in spring 1965 on the ocean floor of La Jolla as an aquanaut, proving humans could survive in this environment.  At one point during his time under the waves, he even spoke by phone to the crew of Gemini 5 orbiting far overhead. Old Mercury Seven buddy Gordon Cooper was no doubt happy to hear him. His work on the ocean floor has yielded cross benefits for NASA too as Carpenter became the Navy/NASA liaison for underwater zero gravity training – or neutral buoyancy, which has become mandatory for NASA EVA astronaut training. For this work, Carpenter was awarded the Navy’s Legion of Merit medal.

Carpenter on top of SEA LAB II shortly before being lowered to the ocean floor where he stayed for a month. Credit: Discovery News / CORBIS

Carpenter on top of SEA LAB II shortly before being lowered to the ocean floor where he stayed for a month.
Credit: Discovery News / CORBIS

In his later years after retiring from the Navy, Carpenter had remained active on various projects utilising his aerospace and oceanic engineering expertise. From enhancing ocean resource usage, to consulting on underwater, diving and submersibles, and lecturing on the future of technology developments and impacts Scott Carpenter had continued to actively contribute to the quality of our lives here on Earth.  Not stopping there, he had also authored three books, one of which is his memoirs “For Spacious Skies” which he wrote with his daughter Kris Stoever. Carpenter remained a staunch advocate of manned spaceflight, and pushing our exploration to Mars.

“We need a goal other than the International Space Station. We need to get cracking on a manned flight to Mars, because that is going to capture the interest, support and imagination of people who pay for spaceflight…We need to go to Mars… Mars is interim, but for now that is a goal that NASA and the country and the planet can live with enthusiastically.”           

Looking back, Carpenter remarked that he and John Glenn bonded over common interests, mutual respect and being Air Force boys. Upon hearing of his great friend’s passing, the last remaining torchbearer of that age, Mercury astronaut John Glenn paid tribute with his friend’s simple words and remarked “Godspeed, Scott Carpenter.” Carpenter himself has said that he believes he is very fortunate to have lived life during a time when there were so many unknowns to be solved during this century. That had pleased him immensely as he was always a very curious person and he has had a lot of satisfied curiosity in his time.

Brothers in Arms; Carpenter (left) and John Glenn (right). Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Brothers in Arms; Carpenter (left) and John Glenn (right).
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Meeting Scott Carpenter at Spacefest V in May 2013 in what turned out to be his twilight months, was a special privilege and for myself, the highest honour, to meet a member of the Original Seven. Meeting Scott himself, who truly understood the wider more nuanced experiences of manned spaceflight, the continuing importance of manned exploration and the questing nature of humanity, was even more special to me. The hallmark of his character, curiosity, still burned brightly in his alert eyes even though his health was visibly failing. I briefly asked him about what lessons he has taken with him on his explorations of the ocean and space into his life. Scott merely whispered, as if sharing a secret;

“Be led by your curiosity. And never forget the fun of learning and discovery. It can take you places you have never dreamed”.

Curiosity brought us here. Scott Carpenter and myself. Credit: Amjad P. Zaidi

Curiosity brought us here. Scott Carpenter and myself.
Credit: Amjad P. Zaidi

Words from a curious but ordinary superman that will stay with me forever. May fair winds be at your back Star Voyager for you have returned to the place where we all came from. You are stardust.  We thank you for your bravery, your discoveries, your humanity and your continuing inspiration.

Godspeed, Scott Carpenter.

Scott Carpenter and his children. His legacy. Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Scott Carpenter and his children. His legacy.
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

 

Sources:

http://www.scottcarpenter.com/

http://www.rocketstem.org/2013/10/03/spacefest-v-ultimate-party-space-lovers/

http://www.astronautix.com/astros/carenter.htm

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/291542-1

http://life.time.com/history/scott-carpenter-rare-and-classic-photos-of-a-nasa-legend/#4

http://news.discovery.com/space/history-of-space/the-right-suff-scott-carpenters-mission-photos-131011.htm

The First International Space Exploration Symposium in Japan

I will be attending a two day symposium organized by JAXA in Tokyo. The theme is Space Exploration for Humanity and the Future. It will open Tuesday October 30 at 1300, Japan time. The complete program can be found at the following address:

http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2012/09/20120928_sympo_e.html

I will try to cover the event live on Twitter with pictures. Even if it proves difficult (power supply problems, etc.) I will write about it here later in the week.

As you can see, the philosophical aspects of space exploration will be discussed but also its future. With the attendance of top executives from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Mitsubishi HI, SpaceX among others, we can expect some interesting talks about the commercial aspects of space exploration.

I also intend to make use of the event to contact persons interested in starting a SpaceUp or Space Tweetup events in Japan in the near future.
Anyone interested can contact me through my Twitter account @ScienceInSpace
I am looking forward to having an active exchange with my fellow Spacetweeps from all around the world.

Philippe Valdois

@ScienceInSpace

TheSpaceport.us – It’s the other side of space!

Space, Astronomy, Science, NASA

It's the other side of space!

Hello Space Fans!

I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce all of you to TheSpaceport.us. We are a Space/Astronomy/Everything forum site with some really great members. We talk about everything from technology and space to politics and aviation. We discuss upcoming and current space missions including those in the private sector. We have some very educated individuals that add a lot of great knowledge and debate to the site. Along with some great aviation history buffs and former military members who actually worked with and on the aircraft!

We are always looking for some new and exciting members to share our love for technology and all things space! We are a good bunch of people that love to make new friends and discuss our passions for science and technology. Come visit us and start talking about the other side of space at TheSpaceport.us!

Keep looking up!

@mtclemente (Delphinus on TheSpaceport)

One Question – A Once in a Lifetime experience

Today, at 9:15am CT I will be on hold – on a phone call. It will be one of few times in my life that waiting for the other person to be available on the other end of the line, will be both understandable and pretty awesome.

Yesterday, I was offered the opportunity by NASA to participate in this morning’s ISS, Expedition 30 press conference. What does participation mean? It means I get to ask one question to the crew – via that phone call (the one I’ll be on hold for). So, one more dream come true, one more item off of my bucket list and one question, one incredible opportunity via NASA!

So.. follow along this morning with the following hashtags: #askStation, #ISS, #NASA and #Exp30. Oh, and while I get to ask one question via the phone, you get the chance to ask a question via Twitter! Start submitting questions using #askStation and, if there’s enough time, the Expedition 30 crew will get a few questions from the twitterverse! How awesome is that?!?!

Oh.. and while I have a few questions in mind.. feel free to tweet me some suggestions! 🙂 @johnmknight

Zoo calling space

Space events are everywhere. But even the more seasoned space enthusiast will not easily end up at a zoo. Yesterday Artis Amsterdam Zoo organized a live inflight call with ESA astronaut André Kuipers. As it happens, André Kuipers is a fan and  ambassador of the zoo. He even took the zoo mascotte ‘Artis de Marsis’ up into the ISS with him. To honor this good relationship between the zoo and ‘its’ astronaut, the zoo organized a live connection with ISS for zoo friends and local schools. (more…)

@NeilTyson to host “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon with John Logsdon” on March 5th

John Logsdon

If you are in the New York City area, you have a chance to join author John Logsdon as he traces the factors leading to President John F. Kennedy’s decision to send astronauts to the Moon and discusses Kennedy’s concerns as the massive effort unfolded. The program, hosted by Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson, will conclude with a signing of Logsdon’s book, John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon.

The program “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon with John Logsdon” will be held at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium on March 5th at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15 and $13.50 for members, students, or seniors. Click here to purchase tickets or to get more information.

Thanks to Ellen Evaristo of the American Museum of Natural History for the information.

The Russians always launch

Extreme weather no objection for Soyuz

Weer Magazine article spreadCircumstances at Baikonur were perfect when cosmonaut André Kuipers was launched into space last December: Temperatures around -30 degrees Centigrade and crystal clear skies. Why do the Russians continue using their remote base in the middle of Kazachstan’s endless steppe?

(more…)

SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Launch Day!

SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Launch Day!

More launch pads, SoyuzTweetup and a Launch!

Launch dayBaikonur, 21 December 2011 – Finally. Today is the day we have been living up to for a long time. The launch of Soyuz TMA-03M, with ‘the’ Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers on board. It is still dark outside when I wake up around 8 o’clock. Today our program consists of two major visits. First we will go to the furthest launch location at the cosmodrome: the Proton launch facility. Then we have some time in the city before going to launch pad 1 for the launch in the early evening.

(more…)

SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Day 3

Launch Pads, Space Shuttle and Public Outreach

Gagarin MonumentBaikonur, 20 December 2011 – After breakfast at our hotel we are greeted again by our guide Elena and driver Said. The uncomfortable van is heated up and waiting for us, this time with the Tsenki security lady already inside. When we leave she hands us two “cosmodrome rules” forms and asks us to sign a list with our names on it. No idea why this was not needed yesterday, but we happily comply. We are waved past the city exit checkpoint, and easily pass the cosmodrome entrance checkpoint. Then again a long empty road to the cosmodrome facilities. This time we go straight on, towards the far end of this middle section at site 250. This launch pad is no longer active, but of great historical importance, as it was built for the Russian space shuttle Buran in the 1980’s.
(more…)

SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Day 2

A week in one day

Soyuz rocketBaikonur, 19 December 2011 – At the moment I write this I have spent 28 hours in Baikonur. That is 26 more than when I wrote my blog yesterday. But it feels like more, way more. A day with a full schedule and weird coincidences, which can turn an ordinary trip into a great adventure! It definitely turned these 26 hours into an experience that feels like a week. It started with the alarm clock at 7:30 this morning… (more…)

SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Day 1

A late night arrival in Baikonur

Gagarin in BaikonurBaikonur, 18 December 2011 – I write this blog on my first evening in Baikonur. Actually, I crossed the border checkpoint from Kazakhstan less than two hours before writing this. So far I have experienced Baikonur city as dark, remote and extremely cold. When our local guide Elena Galaktionova (that’s her real name) picked us up at the Tyuratam railway station, she herself said that at -25°C even the locals consider it very cold. (more…)

520 Days of Dreams and Hope

520 Days of Dreams and Hope

The Russian Phobos-Grunt mission may not have been the success everyone had hoped, but the dream of Mars exploration is far from fading. On November 26, 2011, the world witnessed the spectacular launch of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft, including the new Curiosity rover, aiming to uncover the secrets of Mars and hopefully gather evidence of life on the Red Planet. It won’t be long before a shiny-new powerful rocket carries the first people on the Marsian surface!

But before a mission putting humans on Mars can even begin to get planned, we need to understand and master the difficulties inherent in such a long and unprecedented trip into the Solar System.

The Mars500 experiment, concluded on November 4, 2011, promises to deliver interesting results on the physiological and psychological effects that prolonged isolation has on the human body. During the experiment six ‘marsonauts’ (three Russian, two European and one Chinese) were sealed in an isolation chamber, in Moscow, Russia, for 520 days, i.e. for the duration of a trip to Mars and back. Mars500 simulated almost every aspect of such interplanetary travel, including time-lagged communications and a Mars landing.

To celebrate the successful conclusion of the mission, ESA organized the #Mars500Tweetup, on December 6, 2011 in Rome, during which 20 SpaceTweeps got to meet the two ESA members of the Mars500 crew, Romain Charles (@Romain_CHARLES) and Diego Urbina (@diegou).

Credit: ESA

Not resembling to the least the little green men you would normally expect ;-), Diego and Romain stood among us, tall and proud, looking happy and content – although admittedly a bit pale (…nothing a long and well deserved vacation on a sunny white beach can’t fix!).

Credit: @mgilbir

They talked to us about their lives ‘on board’ the modules, their training for this mission and the experiments performed during the ‘trip’. But, also, about everyday trivia of this amazing experience, like celebrating Christmas, New Year and Halloween, entertaining their monotony with music and art, as well as the secret recipe for Marsian Balls and Mars Pizza. Their eyes lit up when they described the docking and landing simulation on the Marsian surface, almost as you would expect if they had actually been there. We listened (..and religiously tweeted) as Romain and Diego took us on trip of dreams and hope into to the future of human spaceflight.

Undeniably, this mission was not a fun one to go through; it was hard and tedious and, probably, unbearable at times. As Diego told me on the eve of the Mars500tweetup, “it was in mid-August, on the completion of 438 days in isolation, when we received a message from cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, congratulating us braking his record for the longest time ever spent apart from the natural world, that I actually realized that we were doing something truly special”.  And he repeated during the Mars500tweetup: “being part of something greater than yourself is an amazing motivation.

Credit: ESA

The results of the scientific experiments will be released in the months to come. But, one result was already abundantly evident to me: Without having ever met them before, you could undoubtedly tell that, if the Mars500 mission has accomplished one thing, that’s to alter the crew’s perspective on life. In Diego’s own words, as documented in his Mars500 Mission Diary: “….this was not a journey into the cosmos, but a journey to know ourselves and our minds, to realize how important respect and communication are …, how fundamental are the links to the real world, thin and fragile as they may be…”. “We somehow ended up feeling a little bit more human than normal, by having been taken ‘away from humanity’”. “Forget about the things you don’t have and squeeze all the juice out of the things that you DO…!

Thank you Sukhrob, Alexey, Alexandr, Wang, Romain and Diego for giving up 1.5 years of your lives for the advancement of space exploration.

 

Check out the entire story of the Mars500 mission here.