Scott Carpenter, one of the last surviving Mercury 7 astronauts, has died at the age of 88. The second American to go into orbit and the fourth Mercury astronaut to travel into space, Carpenter is also remembered for his contributions to oceanography.

Scott Carpenter was born May 1, 1925. As a US Navy aviator, he flew in the Korean War before he was selected as the first of seven Americans chosen for the Mercury space program in 1959.

On May 24, 1962, Carpenter piloted the Aurora 7 Mercury space capsule on the second American orbital mission, becoming the fourth Mercury astronaut to go into space. He orbited the Earth three times with a total flight time of 4 hours and 54 minutes before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean 250 miles (400 km) off course. The harrowing reentry was due to trouble with the attitude control system and he was forced to take to his one-man life raft to await recovery when the space capsule began to take on water.

The Mercury 7 astronauts (Image: NASA)

Carpenter then took a leave of absence and joined the US Navy’s Man-in the-Sea project as an aquanaut in the SEALAB II program, where he spent 30 days living in an underwater habitat off the coast of La Jolla, California. He then alternated between NASA and the Navy, where he helped design the Lunar Module and acted as Director of Aquanaut Operations during the SEALAB III program.

After retiring from the Navy in 1969, he continued work in aerospace and oceanography.

Carpenter's death was announced on Thursday. No cause was given by his family, but he had been in a hospice since suffering a stroke.

"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.”

With his passing, John Glen is the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut.

The NASA video below shows the Aurora 7 flight.

Source: NASA

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