Scott Carpenter was America's fourth man in space, his 1962
three-orbit mission in a tiny Mercury capsule closely
paralleling that of John Glenn's previous mission. But
that's where the similarities end: a malfunctioning
navigational system caused Carpenter to splash down,
dangerously, some 250 miles off-target, and Glenn's fame
would somehow forever eclipse that of all seven of his
fellow original astronauts combined. This memoir, penned in
conjunction with Carpenter's daughter Kris, oddly distances
itself from Carpenter's life through use of a third-person
narrative (only the astronaut's calm account of his perilous
mission is delivered directly in his voice), a device that
ultimately echoes the more personal distances Carpenter
endured in his own fateful, if troubled, journey toward the
While Carpenter may
have been able to trace his lineage back to the Plymouth
colony of the 1630s, his immediate family seemed shattered.
His research-chemist father was successful but absent, his
mother often a bedridden invalid. Carpenter's journey to the
Mercury program after a Rocky Mountain childhood and a stint
on lumbering Naval patrol planes is one of the more unlikely
of the original astronaut class, and he offers up his own
perspectives on what has become a compelling body of
American folklore (thanks largely to Tom Wolfe's
The Right Stuff
and the memoirs of other participants). While the account of
NASA's infancy seems quaint, its officialdom often comes off
as nothing short of cutthroat, perhaps inspiring the
pioneering spaceman to the book's final adventures exploring
a distinctly different frontier--the bottom of the ocean--as
part of the Navy's endurance-minded SeaLab program.
Amid a flurry of recent accounts of
the early days of the U.S. space program, astronaut
Carpenter and Stoever, his daughter, weigh in with a
biography (most of it written jarringly in the third person)
of the fourth American in space. While a good deal of
factual information about Carpenter's life is presented,
there is very little probing beneath the surface. Perhaps
the most controversial material is Carpenter's discussion of
the specifics of his three-orbit flight on May 24, 1962,
which ended with the American public not knowing for hours
whether Carpenter and his Mercury capsule Aurora 7 had
survived re-entry. His take is very different from that
offered last year by Chris Kraft (Flight: My Life in Mission
Control). While the former mission controller claims that
Carpenter "malfunctioned," Carpenter argues that he
fulfilled his tasks admirably despite a series of mechanical
failures on board the capsule. The third person voice is
lively if not compelling, and though there is not very much
new information about the early days of NASA here, one can
get a flavor of the times and a sense of the people
responsible for bringing America into the space age.
Pictures not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Former astronaut Carpenter joins with
his daughter to tell the story of his life, focusing on the
landmark Project Mercury. With a seven-city author tour.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Apparently written largely by
Carpenter's daughter, this account of the famed Mercury
astronaut's life is comprehensive but dwells unduly on
quotidian aspects of its subject's family life. Anyone
interested in Carpenter is interested in him, after all,
because of his three-orbit flight in 1962, especially
because its less-than-perfect performance has engendered
debate among the cognoscenti about whether the machine or
the man was at fault. Flight director Chris Kraft (Flight,
2001) blamed Carpenter and claimed to have blackballed him
(Carpenter never did rocket to space again), but Stoever
creditably defends her father, quoting a NASA engineer who
wrote that Carpenter saved the mission and his life. Prior
to this central event, Stoever recounts in detail the
fractured family Carpenter grew up in, and the large one he
and his first wife formed, stressing the strains of
peripatetic living as the navy ordered aviator Carpenter
hither and yon. The story picks up momentum with Carpenter's
selection as a Mercury astronaut. Just the ticket for space
buffs. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights
"A rich story of remarkable
accomplishment and sacrifice. Not only do we learn about
the early years of space travel, we learn how one man
became one of America's modern heros."
Coming from a family of early Colorado
pioneers, astronaut Scott Carpenter grew up with a vibrant
frontier tradition of exploration. He went on to become one
of seven Project Mercury astronauts to take part in
America's burgeoning space program in the 1960s. Here he
writes of the pioneering science, training, and biomedicine
of early space flight and tells the heart-stopping tale of
his famous spaceflight aboard Aurora 7.
Carpenter also shares a family story of tenderness and
fortitude. Raised by his grandparents in Boulder, Colorado,
while his mother lay sick for years with tuberculosis,
Carpenter witnessed bravery, love, sacrifice, and endurance
that prepared him for life as a Navy pilot during two wars,
service to country as a Mercury astronaut, and finally as a
pioneering underwater explorer.
Written with his daughter, Kris Stoever, For Spacious
Skies tells a wonderful American family story filled
with never-before-told insider tales from the earliest days
of NASA and, for the first time ever, Carpenter's own
account of his controversial flight and splashdown.
the Inside Flap
On May 24, 1962, the tiny spacecraft
Aurora 7 carried Scott Carpenter into space, American
history, and a lifetime of controversy. For Spacious
Skies offers this Mercury astronaut's never-before-told
account of life at NASA. He takes us through the mysteries
of the selection process, to the desert for survival
training, into the simulator, and onto the contour couch. He
describes, in stunning detail, the flight that made him the
second American to orbit the Earth.
During the early days of the space program, each mission
helped to determine NASA's research progress, the efficiency
of its design, and its status in the race to the moon; when
Aurora 7 began to malfunction, everyone at hand
frantically tried to detect the cause. What was ultimately
found to be a glitch in Aurora 7's pitch horizon
scanner forced the astronaut to overshoot his expected
landing site by 250 miles and later brought all decisions
made during the flight under intense scrutiny. Scott
Carpenter, with his daughter, Kris Stoever, clears up all
lingering questions about his flight while telling the
history of an amazing frontier family and the strength of
the American pioneer spirit.
the Back Cover
Advance praise for For Spacious
"A rich story of remarkable accomplishment and sacrifice.
Not only do we learn about the early years of space travel,
we learn how one man became one of America's modern heroes."
"For Spacious Skies is more than the adventures of the
Mercury astronaut and Deep Submergence aquanaut Scott
Carpenter. It is the heart-breaking story of a family torn
apart and a boy called Buddy who flew solo into space, and
lived for an eternity in the depths of the sea, looking for
-- Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff
"By many miles the best memoir of Project Mercury. For
Spacious Skies is a
splendid, writerly combination of personal and national
journeying, full of
thoughtfulness, thrills, and a deep, dignified emotion. For
remembers the first light of the space age—or had the bad
luck of being too
young to live through it—this is the indispensable book."
--Thomas Mallon, author of Aurora 7 and Mrs.
Scott Carpenter is one of the
seven original "Right Stuff" astronauts. The fourth American
in space, the second to orbit the Earth (John Glenn was the
first), Carpenter went on after the Mercury Project to
explore the oceans, commanding the underwater teams in the
U.S. Navy's SeaLab II program. He lives in New York City and
in Vail, Colorado.
Kris Stoever was six years old when her father
orbited the Earth on May 24, 1962. Since her graduation from
Georgetown University with a degree in history, she has
worked as an editor and writer. She lives with her husband
and daughter in Denver.