The 4th Mercury Flight
Scott Carpenter’s Details – Fourth flight in Mercury Program
Capsule name – Aurora 7
May 24 1962 – Launch at 7:45:16 am EST
May 24 1962 – Lands at 12:41pm EST
Orbits – 3
Altitude – between 100 and 167 miles
Total flight time – 4 hours 56 minutes
Total time weightless – 4 hours 39 minutes
Total miles flown – 81 000
Acceleration force- Launch, 7.9 G. Re entry, over 8 G
Carpenter complains of some problems in navigation during the flight and Aurora 7 overshot intended target area by 250 nautical miles and landed at 19deg 29min North 64deg 05min West, in between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
While people in Grand Turk knew he was alive and well thanks to the Tracking Station at Colonel Murray’s Hill (now known by locals as Nookie Hill), the rest of the World, indeed over 65 million TV viewers were left on tenterhooks about his fate for nearly 50 minutes.
John Glenn, commenting later on the problems Carpenter had faced, stated “perhaps [the] difficulty may actually have been a blessing in disguise, because it showed that when he has to a man can take over control of various systems operate manually and still know what he’s doing.”
The USS Farragut was the first vessel to see the capsule but did not have the right gear to retrieve it. The ship watches over Aurora 7 and waits until the USS John R. Pierce arrives to recover the capsule with special equipment.
Carpenter was then picked up off the capsule by a helicopter from the USS Intrepid. Carpenter continued his journey onto Grand Turk, whilst the capsule went onto Puerto Rico and then returned to Cape Canaveral by plane.
On Grand Turk
Fellow Mercury Astronauts John Glenn, Walter Schirra, Virgil Grissom and Leroy Gordon Cooper, joined Scott Carpenter during his debriefing on Grand Turk: Slayton was in Australia for the flight and was being flown directly to the USA to meet up with the others at Patrick Air Force Base. Shortly after his arrival on Grand Turk, just past midnight, Glenn and Schirra greeted Carpenter and then sat talking with him until 3.30 a.m. Carpenter apologized to the World Media and his family about giving them a “cliff hanger”, but this was put down to the fact that Mercury Control, who knew that the craft had landed and Carpenter was alive after only a few minutes, had not told the waiting media.
His landing successfully and “fortuitously” according to the newspaper interrupted a Legislative Assembly meeting and so the Governor, His Excellency Sir Kenneth Blackburne, and members of the meeting were able to meet Scott Carpenter, John Glenn and other members of the astronaut team.
Carpenter was soon given a clean bill of health and the World’s media were informed that the astronaut was not tired in fact “quite the opposite”. Scott claimed that the trip did not go to plan as instruments failed and fuel ran out. The astronaut had been forced to control the capsule manually and override systems in order to land safely. In spite of the public outcry in the United States that Carpenter had been too ill or too tired to land correctly, the examiners in Grand Turk were so pleased with the results of their health checks that they stated that they could now consider extending manned space flights beyond 3 orbits.