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Lone Eagles: America’s First Orbital Spaceflights
September 23, 2009
Mercury 7 astronaut Commander Scott Carpenter (USN, ret.) with novelist Thomas Mallon and historian Kris Stoever.
“Godspeed, John Glenn.” So intoned Scott Carpenter on the morning of February 20, 1962, as his friend and colleague roared into space aboard Friendship 7. Carpenter himself would follow with his own solo flight aboard Aurora 7 three months later.
Along with Glenn, Scott Carpenter was among the nation’s original seven astronauts, selected fifty years ago. The only Americans who would ever go into space alone, the men of Project Mercury faced a staggering array of engineering and biological uncertainties. The booster rockets that were to get them to space kept blowing up during tests, and some aeromedical experts doubted that the astronauts’ lungs and hearts would be able to sustain the gravitational pressures of launch.
And yet, over the next four years, Project Mercury enjoyed spectacular success, setting America on an accelerated course toward the moon and turning its original seven astronauts into enduring legends of the Cold War.
On September 23, 2009, the Linda Hall Library hosted a rare conversation with Commander Carpenter about Project Mercury and his own solo spaceflight.