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Scott Carpenter, 2nd U.S. astronaut in orbit, dies at 88

  • In this Aug. 1962 file photo, astronaut Scott Carpenter has his space suit adjusted by a technician in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Carpenter, the second American to orbit the Earth and one of the last surviving original Mercury 7 astronauts, died Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. He was 88. (AP Photo, File)

DENVER — Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit the Earth, was guided by two instincts: overcoming fear and quenching his insatiable curiosity. He pioneered his way into the heights of space and the depths of the ocean floor.

"Conquering of fear is one of life's greatest pleasures and it can be done a lot of different places," he said.

His wife, Patty Barrett, said Carpenter died Thursday in a Denver hospice of complications from a September stroke. He lived in Vail.

Scott Carpenter (1925-2013)

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Carpenter followed John Glenn into orbit, and it was Carpenter who gave him the historic sendoff: "Godspeed John Glenn." The two were the last survivors of the famed original Mercury 7 astronauts from the "Right Stuff" days of the early 1960s. Glenn is the only one left alive.

In his one flight, Carpenter missed his landing by 288 miles, leaving a nation on edge for an hour as it watched live and putting Carpenter on the outs with his NASA bosses. So Carpenter found a new place to explore: the ocean floor.

He was the only person who was both an astronaut and an aquanaut, exploring the old ocean and what President John F. Kennedy called "the new ocean" — space.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Thursday that Carpenter "was in the 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. ... We will miss his passion, his talent and his lifelong commitment to exploration."

Life was an adventure for Carpenter and he said it should be for others: "Every child has got to seek his own destiny. All I can say is that I have had a great time seeking my own."

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