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Astronaut Scott Carpenter remembered at Colorado funeral

The American flag that draped astronaut Scott Carpenter's casket is presented to his widow at the conclusion of Saturday's (Nov. 2) funeral service in Boulder, Colo.. Looking on are family members and fellow Mercury astronaut John Glenn (fourth from left). (cS)
November 2, 2013

— The second American astronaut to orbit the Earth was remembered by family and friends at a funeral service in his Colorado hometown.

Scott Carpenter, 88, died Oct. 10, after suffering a recent stroke. On Saturday (Nov. 2), a private family funeral was followed by a public memorial held at St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder. Carpenter is survived by his wife Patty and six children.

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

John Glenn, who preceded Carpenter into orbit by several months in 1962, delivered a eulogy for his fellow Mercury astronaut. Glenn is now the last of NASA's original seven astronauts, selected in 1959, living today.

"Scott Carpenter was my lifelong friend," Glenn said in a statement issued the day Carpenter died. "History books will remember him as an explorer of the heavens and the seas."

Original astronaut Scott Carpenter, as seen in 1962 wearing his Mercury spacesuit, died Oct. 10, 2013. (NASA/RetroSpaceImages)

"Today I remember a statement Scott made over 50 years ago as I was launched into space. It was 'Godspeed, John Glenn,'" the former Ohio senator continued. "These words meant a lot to me at the time and since, because I knew they were spoken from the heart, from our friendship and his concern for me and our mission."

"To paraphrase: 'Godspeed, Scott Carpenter, great friend'" Glenn concluded. "You are missed."

A number of other astronauts attended the funeral, serving as pallbearers. Present in Boulder were Apollo astronauts Gene Cernan, Charlie Duke, Rusty Schweickart and Dave Scott, as well as shuttle veterans Dan Brandenstein, Bob Crippen, Dick Truly and Charlie Walker. Dee O'Hara, nurse to the original astronauts, and Suzan Cooper, the widow of original astronaut Gordon Cooper, also attended.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, also a former space shuttle astronaut, spoke at Saturday's remembrance.

"He was more than an astronaut," remarked Bolden, The Daily Camera reported. "He went above the sky, below the Earth, and deep into our hearts."

A U.S. Navy Honor Guard performs a ceremonial 3-volley salute at the funeral for Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter, Nov. 2. (cS)

Carpenter made his first and only spaceflight on May 24, 1962, when he became the sixth man worldwide to leave the planet. During his Mercury-Atlas 7 mission, Carpenter circled the Earth three times and conducted some of the first astronaut science experiments. He splashed down on board his "Aurora 7" capsule 4 hours and 56 minutes after his launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Carpenter never flew in space again, but later became an aquanaut, spending a record 30 days on the ocean floor working on the Navy's SEALAB II, an experimental habitat located off the coast of California.

Colorado's Governor John Hickenlooper ordered that flags be lowered to half-staff statewide on all public buildings on Saturday. Carpenter was born in Boulder, lived in Vail and was at a Denver hospice center when he died.

"We remember and honor Carpenter as a great Coloradan and great American," the governor said in his order. "Scott was a pure Westerner whose courageous explorations in both ocean and space helped to educate, inspire and lead a nation to explore and challenge our natural limits."

"We offer our condolences to Scott's family and friends," Hickenlooper said.

At the conclusion of Saturday's service, four F-18 jets flew over the church, performing an aerial salute in the missing man formation.

The flag-draped casket containing the body of Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter in St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder. (cS)

Carpenter, a former naval aviator, received military honors before his body was taken to be cremated. He will buried next year at his family's ranch near Steamboat Springs.

"In the spring, when the snow clears, we'll take his ashes to the Frye place, near Clark, Colo.," wrote Kris Stoever, Carpenter's daughter and co-author of his 2003 memoirs, in a recent article for Outside magazine. "Homesteaded in 1901 by his great-uncle John, it hosts family camping trips when not under snow. The grave site will be consecrated among the aspens, near the headgate, and we'll inter his remains at 8,300 feet."

"This is what my father wanted," Stoever explained, "to be buried in a place that had shaped him."

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