Friday, October 11, 2013

Fullbore Friday

A life of significance - a credit to the United States Navy.
Mr. Carpenter became a naval aviation cadet in 1943, but World War II ended before he could obtain his wings. He entered the University of Colorado afterward and received a Navy commission in 1949.

He flew patrol planes in the Pacific during the Korean War, then trained as a test pilot, and in April 1959 he was among the seven military pilots chosen as the Mercury astronauts, the beginning of America’s quest to carry out President John F. Kennedy’s goal to put a man on the Moon.

Mr. Carpenter was highly accomplished in communications and navigation in addition to his flying skills. He was also in outstanding physical condition, exceeding several NASA performance standards.
When Lieutenant Commander Carpenter splashed down off Puerto Rico in his Aurora 7 capsule on May 24, 1962, after a harrowing mission, he had fulfilled a dream.

“I volunteered for a number of reasons,” he wrote in “We Seven,” a book of reflections by the original astronauts published in 1962. “One of these, quite frankly, was that I thought this was a chance for immortality. Pioneering in space was something I would willingly give my life for.”

For 39 minutes after his capsule hit the Caribbean, according to NASA, there were fears that he had, in fact, perished. He was 250 nautical miles from his intended landing point after making three orbits in a nearly five-hour flight. Although radar and radio signals indicated that his capsule had survived re-entry, it was not immediately clear that he was safe.

A Navy search plane finally spotted him in a bright orange life raft. He remained in it for three hours, accompanied by two frogmen dropped to assist him, before he was picked up by a helicopter and taken to the aircraft carrier Intrepid.

The uncertainty over his fate was only one problem with the flight. The equipment controlling the capsule’s attitude (the way it was pointed) had gone awry; moreover, he fired his re-entry rockets three seconds late, and they did not carry the anticipated thrust. He also fell behind on his many tasks during the flight’s final moments, and his fuel ran low when he inadvertently left two control systems on at the same time.

Some NASA officials found fault with his performance.

“He was completely ignoring our request to check his instruments,” Christopher Kraft, the flight director, wrote in his memoir “Flight: My Life in Mission Control” (2001). “I swore an oath that Scott Carpenter would never again fly in space. He didn’t.”
Well, you know what - Shipmate flew in space Christopher, and you didn't; so there - he wins.

Fair winds and following seas Scott - not bad work for a hinge. Wait ... not quite a goodbye yet.
Commander Carpenter’s prospect of obtaining another NASA mission was ended by a motorbike injury that led to his leaving NASA in 1967.
Mr. Carpenter also carved a legacy as a pioneer in the ocean’s depths. He was the only astronaut to become an aquanaut, spending a month living and working on the ocean floor, at a depth of 205 feet, in the Sealab project off San Diego in the summer of 1965. When he returned to NASA, he helped develop underwater training to prepare for spacewalks. He returned to the Sealab program, but a thigh injury resulting from his diving work kept him from exploring the ocean floor again.

He retired from the Navy in 1969 with the rank of commander, pursued oceanographic and environmental activities and wrote two novels involving underwater adventures.
Mr. Carpenter was on hand at Cape Canaveral with Mr. Glenn and veterans of the Project Mercury support teams at events a few days before the 50th anniversary of Mr. Glenn’s pioneering orbital flight.

Both men had expressed hopes that America’s space program would be revived.

“John, thank you for your heroic effort and all of you for your heroic effort,” Mr. Carpenter told the gathering. “But we stand here waiting to be outdone.”
There - rounds things out, and like all great Navy officers, he leaves with a challenge to the generations who follow.

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