NASA HISTORY: Scott Carpenter Launches Into Orbit Aboard Aurora 7 Capsule 61 Years Ago

Carpenter completed three orbits of the Earth, conducting several experiments

WATCH: On May 24, 1962, astronaut M. Scott Carpenter completed America’s second orbital spaceflight during the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission. Carpenter flew the mission after doctors grounded the prime crew member, astronaut Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, due to a minor heart condition.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA  – On May 24, 1962, astronaut M. Scott Carpenter completed America’s second orbital spaceflight during the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission. Carpenter flew the mission after doctors grounded the prime crew member, astronaut Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, due to a minor heart condition.

Naming his spacecraft Aurora 7, Carpenter completed three orbits of the Earth, conducting several experiments, including photography of the planet.

A problem with the spacecraft’s attitude and the late firing of its retrorockets during the critical reentry burn resulted in Aurora 7 splashing down 250 miles off course.

Carpenter waited in his life raft for more than an hour before rescue teams recovered him and flew him safely to the prime recovery ship, the U.S.S. Intrepid aircraft carrier.

Carpenter named his capsule “Aurora” because he viewed his flight as a “celestial event” like the aurora borealis and “7” in honor of his fellow astronauts.

However, people from his hometown didn’t accept his explanation and believed the name originated from his childhood home at the corner of Aurora and Seven Street.

The flight lasted nearly five hours and completed three orbits. Carpenter spent the mission testing equipment and taking photographs.

The spacecraft overshot the intended splashdown area by about 250 nautical miles and was retrieved hours later. Carpenter’s only company at that time was a school of gold-colored fish that had taken up residence under the shade of his raft.

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