Friday, October 11, 2013

Ad Astra, Scott Carpenter

Scott Carpenter was one of the Mercury Seven, the knights America sent into the skies to contest the Soviet Union.  If that romantic picture has faded over the years with the discovery that the astronauts were (surprise) human beings with feeling and failings, the fact remains that these young men undertook an incredibly dangerous adventure. Their motivations included patriotism, love of adventure, and the determination among test pilots to fly faster and farther than any of their brethren.  As Tom Wolfe wrote, "Scott was the only one with a touch of the poet about him," the only one of the seven who talked much about the philosophical implications of pushing humanity into a new frontier. He was also the only one to join John Glenn in urging his fellows to watch their public images and behavior.  He wrote an exciting and moving autobiography, For Spacious Skies. As a final touch of uniqueness, Carpenter turned to another frontier, becoming a pioneering aquanaut in the Navy's SeaLab program. 
I've never met any of the Seven: I would still like to meet Glenn, the last living example, but the other one I'd have loved to meet was always Carpenter.  Farewell.

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