Rene Carpenter, pioneering space writer and last member of 'astronaut wives club,' dies at 92

Rene Carpenter in 1969.  (Image credit: Leonard Mccombe/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

Rene Carpenter — pioneering writer, space reporter and last surviving member of the "astronaut wives club," has died. She was 92. 

Carpenter died Friday (July 24) in Denver  due to congestive heart failure, her daughter Kris Stoever told the New York Times reported

The wife of Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter, who died in 2013, Carpenter kept his surname even after they divorced and she remarried. She was part of the oft-romanticized informal group of Mercury 7 astronaut wives nicknamed the "Astronaut Wives Club," which was depicted in a book and an ABC docu-drama, both by the same name, which were released in 2013 and 2015, respectively.  

But Carpenter, who actually was the one to sign her husband up for Project Mercury, wasn't just a member of this tight-knit Astro-club — she had a groundbreaking career of her own. She was not only deeply immersed in the ins and outs of the space program and its history, but she had a serious grasp on the science side of things. 

Related: Project Mercury: Photos of NASA's 1st Crewed Spaceflights

Rene Carpenter with her son on May 24, 1962 watching Scott Carpenter's orbital flight on TV.  (Image credit: Photo by Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

A writer, Carpenter detailed her experience watching her husband fly as the fourth American to travel to space for Life Magazine. Her gritty take didn't paint her experiences as an "astronaut wife" with a rosy glow, and her raw depiction captivated the nation. 

"As a bride I was assured by glowing advertisements that I would spend my hours fingering the latest sterling silverware pattern and filling linen closets to overflowing," she wrote in the piece for Life, according to the New York Times She revealed that as an "astronaut wife," “I learned to give birth alone, care for sick babies alone and wait at the end of a hundred almost forgotten runways for a plane to touch down again.”

Carpenter went on to write a syndicated column named "A Woman, Still" and was hired by NBC-TV to cover the Apollo launches on air. This career in television was extended with her own show in the 1970s, "Everywoman," which took a feminist perspective to dive into taboo topics like sexism and birth control.

Carpenter was also involved in politics and campaigned for astronaut John Glenn when he first ran for senate in 1964. She even stepped in for Glenn after he fell ill to deliver a number of speeches that were well-received across the nation. Following this work, she campaigned for Senator Robert F. Kennedy. 

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.