Scott Carpenter—pioneer astronaut, second American to orbit the Earth, and U.S. Navy veteran—passed away in Denver Thursday from complications from a stroke, the AP reports. He was 88.
“Today, the world mourns the passing of Scott Carpenter,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement. “As one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, he was in the first vanguard of our space program—the pioneers who set the tone for our nation’s pioneering efforts beyond Earth and accomplished so much for our nation.”
Carpenter was born on May 1, 1925, in Boulder, Colorado and joined the U.S. Navy as a pilot while in college. During his service, he was among an elite group of military pilots selected by NASA to volunteer for America’s first manned spaceflights. Carpenter famously gave John Glenn, first American to orbit Earth, a poignant sendoff: “Godspeed, John Glenn.”
In 1962, Carpenter became the second American in orbit as pilot of the Aurora 7 capsule—and also was the first American to eat solid food in space. The conclusion of that flight caused nationwide commotion as he missed his landing by 288 miles, leading rescuers to search the ocean for him for hours.
After his spaceflight, Carpenter led a varied career. He participated in the Navy’s SeaLab underwater training program, spending 30 days under the ocean, and becoming an “aquanaut” as well as an astronaut. He also returned to NASA to help design the Apollo Lunar Landing Module, and served as a movie consultant in spaceflight and oceanography. And Carpenter even became a writer, publishing two novels, The Steel Albatross and Deep Flight, as well as an autobiography, For Spacious Skies, written together with his daughter Kristen Stoever in 2003.
“His accomplishments truly helped our nation progress in space from the earliest days to the world leadership we enjoy today,” Bolden said. “We will miss his passion, his talent and his lifelong commitment to exploration.”
The explorer is survived by his wife, Patty; six children, one granddaughter, and five step-grandchildren. “Every child has got to seek his own destiny,” Carpenter has said. “All I can say is that I have had a great time seeking my own.”
Watch a video recap of Carpenter’s Aurora 7 flight: