DENVER — Astronaut M. Scott Carpenter, the United States’ fourth astronaut to fly in space and the second to ever orbit the Earth, died early Thursday at a hospice center in Denver, FOX31 Denver confirmed. He was 88.
“We, the whole NASA family, are mourning with Scott’s family. We have lost a true pioneer. I shall long remember him not only for his smarts and courage but his incredible humor. He kept us all grounded,” NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said.
The Mercury 7 astronaut, and Colorado native, was being treated at a center following a recent stroke, family said. Carpenter was initially expected to make a full recovery, but his condition worsened this week.
Born in Boulder in 1925, Carpenter became a naval aviation cadet in 1943, attending Colorado College until World War II interrupted his studies.
He later entered the University of Colorado to study aeronautical engineering but left school, with only one credit left to complete his degree, and received a Navy commission in 1949.
CU later awarded Carpenter his degree in 1962 following his flight in space. When presenting the degree to Carpenter, then-CU President Quigg Newton noted that “his subsequent training as an astronaut has more than made up for his deficiency in the subject of heat transfer.”
During the Korean War, Carpenter participated in anti-submarine patrols and shipping surveillance missions in the Yellow Sea, the South China Sea, and the Formosa Straits.
In 1954, he was assigned to the electronics division of the Naval Air Test Center, where he conducted experiments on a variety of airplanes.
NASA announced its first astronauts, the Mercury 7, in 1959. Carpenter joined L. Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald Slayton
Carpenter made his only spaceflight on May 24, 1962, as the fourth American in space and the second American to orbit the Earth, aboard the spacecraft Aurora 7. The flight time was 4 hours and 54 minutes.
During his mission, Carpenter circled the Earth three times, conducted some of the first astronaut science experiments, and consumed the first solid space food — small square cubes composed of chocolate, figs, and dates mixed with high-protein cereals.
“I volunteered (for the mission) for a number of reasons,” Carpenter wrote in the book by Alan Shepard “We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves.” “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.”
“My colleagues and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Astronaut Scott Carpenter,” said CU-Boulder aerospace engineering sciences Chair Penina Axelrad. “He has long been a member of the CU family and a tremendous inspiration for our aerospace faculty and students.”
CNN contributed to this report.