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M. 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 stars.

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. --Jerry McCulley


From Publishers Weekly

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.

From Library Journal

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.

From Booklist

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 reserved


"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."
--John Glenn

Product Description

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.

From 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.

From the Back Cover

Advance praise for For Spacious Skies

"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."
--John Glenn

"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 his father."
-- 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 anyone who
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. Paine's Garage

About the Author

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.



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