For Spacious Skies: The Uncommon Journey of a Mercury Astronaut

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9780151004676: For Spacious Skies: The Uncommon Journey of a Mercury Astronaut

Coming from a family of early Colorado pioneers, astronaut Scott Carpenter grew up with a vibrant frontier tradition of exploration. He went on to become one of seven Project Mercury astronauts to take part in America's burgeoning space program in the 1960s. Here he writes of the pioneering science, training, and biomedicine of early space flight and tells the heart-stopping tale of his famous spaceflight aboard Aurora 7.

Carpenter also shares a family story of tenderness and fortitude. Raised by his grandparents in Boulder, Colorado, while his mother lay sick for years with tuberculosis, Carpenter witnessed bravery, love, sacrifice, and endurance that prepared him for life as a Navy pilot during two wars, service to country as a Mercury astronaut, and finally as a pioneering underwater explorer.

Written with his daughter, Kris Stoever, For Spacious Skies tells a wonderful American family story filled with never-before-told insider tales from the earliest days of NASA and, for the first time ever, Carpenter's own account of his controversial flight and splashdown.

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Review:

M. Scott Carpenter was America's fourth man in space, his 1962 three-orbit mission in a tiny Mercury capsule closely paralleling that of John Glenn's previous mission. But that's where the similarities end: a malfunctioning navigational system caused Carpenter to splash down, dangerously, some 250 miles off-target, and Glenn's fame would somehow forever eclipse that of all seven of his fellow original astronauts combined. This memoir, penned in conjunction with Carpenter's daughter Kris, oddly distances itself from Carpenter's life through use of a third-person narrative (only the astronaut's calm account of his perilous mission is delivered directly in his voice), a device that ultimately echoes the more personal distances Carpenter endured in his own fateful, if troubled, journey toward the stars.

While Carpenter may have been able to trace his lineage back to the Plymouth colony of the 1630s, his immediate family seemed shattered. His research-chemist father was successful but absent, his mother often a bedridden invalid. Carpenter's journey to the Mercury program after a Rocky Mountain childhood and a stint on lumbering Naval patrol planes is one of the more unlikely of the original astronaut class, and he offers up his own perspectives on what has become a compelling body of American folklore (thanks largely to Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff and the memoirs of other participants). While the account of NASA's infancy seems quaint, its officialdom often comes off as nothing short of cutthroat, perhaps inspiring the pioneering spaceman to the book's final adventures exploring a distinctly different frontier--the bottom of the ocean--as part of the Navy's endurance-minded SeaLab program. --Jerry McCulley

From the Inside Flap:

On May 24, 1962, the tiny spacecraft Aurora 7 carried Scott Carpenter into space, American history, and a lifetime of controversy. For Spacious Skies offers this Mercury astronaut's never-before-told account of life at NASA. He takes us through the mysteries of the selection process, to the desert for survival training, into the simulator, and onto the contour couch. He describes, in stunning detail, the flight that made him the second American to orbit the Earth.

During the early days of the space program, each mission helped to determine NASA's research progress, the efficiency of its design, and its status in the race to the moon; when Aurora 7 began to malfunction, everyone at hand frantically tried to detect the cause. What was ultimately found to be a glitch in Aurora 7's pitch horizon scanner forced the astronaut to overshoot his expected landing site by 250 miles and later brought all decisions made during the flight under intense scrutiny. Scott Carpenter, with his daughter, Kris Stoever, clears up all lingering questions about his flight while telling the history of an amazing frontier family and the strength of the American pioneer spirit.

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