VAIL — Astronaut and Vail resident Scott Carpenter died early Thursday morning. He was 88.
Carpenter was the second American astronaut to orbit Earth and lived in Vail for more than 25 years.
“He had that worldwide perspective of having seen the entire planet, and after space and under water, the next view for him was looking at the Gore Range,” Patty Carpenter, Scott’s wife said Thursday afternoon.
“We’d stand at the top of Vail Mountain on a powder day thankful that we are lucky enough to live here,” Patty said.
Carpenter suffered a stroke earlier and was in Denver Hospice at the time of his death, Patty said.
“They’re a fantastic organization and helped us through our grief, and certainly helped Scott,” Patty said.
Carpenter’s death leaves John Glenn, 92, as the last living member of the Mercury 7 team, NASA’s first group of astronauts.
Carpenter is fondly remembered for his radio call “Godspeed, John Glenn,” when Friendship 7 lifted off and Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, Feb. 20, 1962. Carpenter was Glenn’s backup pilot for that flight.
Three months later, May 24, 1962, Carpenter became the second American in orbit when piloted his Aurora 7 capsule through three orbits around Earth.
That made him the fourth American in space, the second to orbit the Earth, and the sixth man worldwide to leave the planet.
Last year Scott and Glenn celebrated the 50th anniversary of their flights.
Carpenter was originally from Boulder and loved to ski, Patty said.
“We have a lot of friends there and we love Vail,” Patty said.
During his Mercury-Atlas 7 mission, Carpenter circled the Earth three times. He was in space 4 hours and 56 minutes. He became the first American to eat solid food in space, energy snacks called Space Food Sticks, small square cubes composed of chocolate, figs, and dates mixed with high-protein cereals.
He was selected in 1959 from more than 100 candidates to be one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts.
Aurora 7 was Carpenter’s only spaceflight. A motorcycle accident in 1964 left him with an injured left arm.
He moved from outer space to inner space when, in 1965 he became the first astronaut to become an aquanaut. He spent 30 days on board the Navy’s Sealab II 1965, an experimental habitat in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
Since Carpenter’s stint aboard Sealab, 38 astronauts have followed him into the ocean.
Carpenter retired from the Navy in 1969 and pursued several private businesses, including one as a consultant for spaceflight and oceanography movies.
He wrote two novels as well as a memoir titled “For Spacious Skies,” his 2003 autobiography written with his daughter Kris Stoever.
He is survived by Patty Carpenter, his wife, and his children: Jay Carpenter, Kris Carpenter Stoever, Candy Carpenter, Matt Carpenter, Nick Carpenter and Zack Carpenter, one granddaughter and five step grandchildren.