The United States’ fourth astronaut to fly in space and the second to orbit the Earth, Carpenter, 88, died on Thursday (Oct. 10) after suffering a recent stroke.
The original Mercury 7 astronaut was being cared for at a hospice center in Denver when he passed. Carpenter was initially expected to make a full recovery from the stroke, but his condition worsened this week, sources close to his family shared. Carpenter passed at 5:30 a.m. MDT (7:30 a.m. EDT; 1130 GMT) with his wife Patty at his side, his family confirmed to collectSPACE.
Chosen in 1959 among NASA’s first astronauts, 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, conducted some of the first astronaut science experiments, and consumed the first solid space food — small square cubes composed of chocolate, figs, and dates mixed with high-protein cereals.
He splashed down aboard his “Aurora 7” capsule 4 hours and 56 minutes after his launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. — and 250 miles (400 kilometers) off course. His overshot re-entry was the result of several spacecraft malfunctions, including the intermittent failure of attitude indicators and the retrorockets firing late and underthrust.
Carpenter never flew in space again, the result of an injury to his left arm sustained in a motorcycle accident in 1964. He did however, become an aquanaut, spending a record 30 days on the ocean floor aboard the Navy’s SEALAB II, an experimental habitat located off the coast of California.