Malcolm “Scott” Carpenter was born on May 1, 1925, in Boulder, Colorado, the son of a research chemist. After attending public schools in Boulder, he graduated from the University of Colorado in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Carpenter entered the U.S. Navy the same year and received flight training at Pensacola, Florida, and Corpus Christi, Texas. During the Korean War, he flew anti-submarine, ship surveillance, and aerial mining missions in the Yellow Sea, South China Sea, and the Formosa Straits.
Carpenter attended the Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland in 1954, then was assigned to the Electronics Test Division of the Naval Air Test Center. There he flew tests in a variety of naval aircraft including multi and single engine jet and propeller driven fighters, attack planes, patrol bombers, transports, and seaplanes. From 1957 to 1958, Carpenter attended the Navy General Line School and the Navy Air Intelligence School, then was assigned as Air Intelligence Officer to the aircraft carrier the USS Hornet.
Scott Carpenter was selected as one of the seven Mercury astronauts on April 9, 1959. He underwent intensive training with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), specializing in the fields of communication and navigation. When NASA grounded MA-7 pilot Donald K. Slayton (Deke) due to his heart condition, Carpenter was selected as prime pilot for that mission with Walter M. Schirra, Jr., as his backup pilot.
On May 24, 1962, Commander Carpenter lifted off inside the Aurora 7 spacecraft, atop a Mercury-Atlas 7 rocket and became just the second American to orbit the earth. His spacecraft reached a maximum altitude of 164 miles while hurtling through space at 17,532 miles per hour. The primary goal of the three-orbit mission was to determine if humans could fully function in outer space. Carpenter performed several scientific experiments, including deployment of a tethered balloon. After a flight of more than four hours and 53 minutes, the Aurora 7 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1963, Scott Carpenter helped design and develop the lunar module for the Apollo project, then served as Executive Assistant to the Director of the Manned Spaceflight Center in Houston. In July 1964, Carpenter suffered injuries from a motorbike accident in Bermuda that resulted in his permanent grounding for all future spaceflights. In the spring of 1965, he participated in the U.S. Navy’s SEALAB II project, as Training Officer for the crew. He was also Officer-in-Charge of the project’s diving teams. Commander Carpenter spent 30 days in SEALAB II, a scientific research station on the ocean floor at a depth of 205 feet off the coast of La Jolla, California, supervising divers and researchers. For his work on the project, Carpenter received the Navy’s Legion of Merit award.
Carpenter then returned to his previous job as NASA’s Executive Assistant to the Director of the Manned Spaceflight Center. He continued to aid in the design of the Apollo Lunar Landing Module and helped with underwater extravehicular activity (EVA) crew training. In 1967, he joined the Navy’s Deep Submergence Systems Project (DSSP) as Director of Aquanaut Operations during the SEALAB III experiment. The DSSP office was responsible for directing the Navy’s Saturation Diving Program, which included development of deep-ocean search, rescue, salvage, ocean engineering, and Man-in-the-Sea capabilities.
Upon retirement from the Navy in 1969, Commander Carpenter founded and was chief executive officer of Sear Sciences, Inc. a venture capital corporation active in developing programs aimed at enhanced utilization of ocean resources and improved health of the planet. In pursuit of these and other objectives, he worked closely with the French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and members of his Calypso team. Carpenter worked underwater in most of the world’s seas, including under the icecap of the Arctic Ocean.
As a consultant to sport and professional diving equipment manufacturers, he also contributed to design improvements in diving instruments, underwater breathing equipment, swimmer propulsion units, small submersibles, and other underwater devices. Additional projects brought to fruition by his innovative guidance have involved biological pest control and the production of energy from agricultural and industrial waste. Commander Carpenter also was instrumental in the design and improvement of several types of waste handling and waste-transfer equipment.
Carpenter applied his knowledge of aerospace and ocean engineering as a consultant to industry and the private sector. He lectured frequently in the U.S. and abroad on the history and future of ocean and space technology, the impact of scientific and technological advance on human affairs, and man’s continuing search for excellence.
In addition to the Navy’s Legion of Merit, Scott Carpenter was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, U.S. Navy Astronaut Wings, the University of Colorado Recognition Medal, the Collier Trophy, the New York City Gold Medal of Honor, the Elisha Kent Kane Medal, the Ustica Gold Trident, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo, as well as seven honorary degrees.
He wrote two novels, The Steel Albatross and a sequel, Deep Flight. His autobiography, For Spacious Skies was co-authored with his daughter, Kristen Stoever, in 2003. Malcom ‘Scott’ Carpenter passed away in Denver, Colorado, on Thursday October 10, 2013, following complications from a stroke.