DENVER (TIP): Scott Carpenter, who in 1962 became the fourth US astronaut in space and second American to orbit the Earth, died on Thursday in Colorado at age 88 of complications from a stroke, his wife Patty Carpenter said. She said her husband died in a Denver hospice he had entered a number of days ago. In 1959, NASA chose Carpenter and six other pilots to be astronauts in response to the Soviet Union’s space program. The only surviving member of that Mercury 7 team is John Glenn, 92, who went on to serve as a US Senator from Ohio for more than two decades. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, and Carpenter was his backup on that mission. Later that year, Carpenter made only one spaceflight, taking the Aurora 7 spacecraft on three laps around Earth on May 24, 1962, a few weeks after his 37th birthday.
It was a flight of less than five hours and made him the fourth American in space and the second, after Glenn, to orbit Earth. Carpenter, unlike his Mercury colleagues, had never been in a fighter squadron during the Korean War, instead flying mostly surveillance planes. Much of his flight time had been in multi-engine propeller planes, rather than jets. “Scott was the only one with a touch of the poet about him in the sense that the idea of going into space stirred his imagination,” Tom Wolfe wrote in “The Right Stuff,” his bestselling book about the first astronauts.