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Astronaut Scott Carpenter laid to rest in Boulder

By: The Denver Post
November 2, 2013 Updated: November 3, 2013 at 4:12 pm
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photo - Scott M. Carpenter, in space suit about to enter Aurora 7 space capsule in May 1962. (AP Photo)
Scott M. Carpenter, in space suit about to enter Aurora 7 space capsule in May 1962. (AP Photo) 

Scott Carpenter's travels and work throughout his life took him everywhere from the depths of the ocean to the heights of space. But Saturday, many of the people he met on those journeys came back to remember him in Boulder, the place where he was born and raised.

"It's fitting we say goodbye to Scott in Boulder," said Tom Stoever, Carpenter's son-in-law. "This community stoked his desire to understand the world around him."

Hundreds gathered at St. John's Episcopal Church to remember Carpenter, the Boulder-bred astronaut who became just the second American to orbit the Earth when he piloted the Aurora 7 on May 24, 1962.

Carpenter died on Oct. 10 in Denver at the age of 88 due to complications from a stroke he suffered several weeks before that at his home in Vail.

Among the people in attendance at the memorial were Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Representatives Jared Polis of Boulder and Ed Perlmutter of Aurora. Former Sen. John Glenn, who preceded Carpenter into space by just a few months, was one of the speakers at Carpenter's memorial.

Glenn -- who is now the last surviving member of the original Mercury 7 space program he and Carpenter were a part of -- recalled to those gathered how Carpenter was always the most curious and enthusiastic of the men about the work they were doing.

"He was head and shoulders above us in enthusiasm in what we were doing," said Glenn, who added Carpenter was always asking questions about the tests they ran or the equipment they were using.

"Scott's curiosity knew no bounds...He was exploring an unknown, and that was a way of life with him."

Carpenter's 1962 flight is remembered as one of high drama, as Carpenter was forced to manually take over control of the landing when a key instrument on board malfunctioned.

Current NASA administrator Charles Bolden recalled being just a teen then waiting along with the rest of a nation to hear what had happened to Carpenter. And like the rest of the nation, Bolden said he breathed a sigh of relief when Carpenter was found floating safe in his raft in the Caribbean.

"I remember being moved by his bravery," Bolden said. "Scott Carpenter inspired me."

Carpenter never re-entered space after that flight, but his adventures were far from over. He completed a 30-day stint in the ocean as part of the Navy's SeaLab II program, and dove in most of the world's oceans, including under the ice in the Arctic, after retiring from the Navy in 1969 and founding his own company Sea Sciences Inc.

Glenn remembers calling Carpenter during that 30-day stint under the sea, where Carpenter was subjected to enormous pressure from gases, including -- as Glenn recalled -- helium.

"It was like having a high-pitched, metallic conversation with Donald Duck," Glenn said before launching into an impression of what his good friend sounded like over the phone.

Carpenter was born in Boulder in 1925 and graduated from Boulder High School in 1943 before briefly attending the University of Colorado. He joined the Navy's V-12a training program, designed to help train pilots during World War II, and served for 10 years.

In recent years, Carpenter spent most of his time in Vail and West Palm Beach, Fla. But he returned to Boulder in 2012 to attend the rededication of the Boulder park bearing his name, marking the 50th anniversary of the orbital flight that made him a legend.

"He was more than an astronaut," Bolden said. "He went above the sky, below the Earth, and deep into our hearts."

After the memorial, Carpenter was given military honors as four F-18s flew overhead.

When Glenn launched into space to become the first American to orbit the Earth, Carpenter -- who was his backup pilot for the flight -- famously said "Godspeed, John Glenn."

On Saturday, more than 50 years after both men made their journeys into space, Glenn echoed the salute as Carpenter's journeys finally brought him home.

"Godspeed, Scott Carpenter," Glenn said. "You are missed."

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