Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter Suffers Stroke, Expected to Recover

Scott Carpenter in 2011
Scott Carpenter, the second U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, as seen at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in 2011. (Image credit: Z. Pearlman)

M. Scott Carpenter, who in 1962 became the second American to orbit the Earth, suffered a stroke earlier this week but is expected to recover.

Carpenter, 88, was at his home in Vail, Colorado when he was stricken four days ago, NBC News reported Thursday evening (Sept. 26). The former NASA astronaut is said to have experienced "some paralysis and is having trouble speaking," according to family friends who spoke to NBC correspondent Jay Barbree.

Carpenter is now recovering at a hospital in Denver.

News of Carpenter's status started spreading through the space community earlier in the day on Thursday.

Selected in 1959 among the original Mercury 7 astronauts, Carpenter made his first and only spaceflight on May 24, 1962, when he became the fourth American in space, the second to orbit the Earth, and the sixth man worldwide to leave the planet. [Aurora 7: Astronaut Scott Carpenter's Orbital Flight in Pictures]

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.

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.

Besides his own space and sea adventures, Carpenter is popularly remembered for his radio call "Godspeed, John Glenn," which heralded his fellow Mercury astronaut's lift off to become the first American in orbit on Feb. 20, 1962. Glenn and Carpenter are the last of the original astronauts living today.

A recipient of the National Aeronautic Association's Collier Trophy, a member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame and a co-founder of the Mercury 7 Foundation (today the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation), Carpenter told of his "uncommon journey" to become a Mercury astronaut in "For Spacious Skies," his 2003 autobiography penned with his daughter Kris Stoever.

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.