NASA HISTORY: Scott Carpenter Launches Into Orbit Aboard Aurora 7 Capsule 59 Years Ago

By  //  May 25, 2021

May 24, 1962

ABOVE VIDEO: On May 24, 1962, NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter completed America’s second orbital spaceflight during the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission, which launched from then Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Brevard County.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA  – In 1962, NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter launched into orbit in his capsule, Aurora 7.

At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, now Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida, ground crews prepared the Mercury spacecraft and its Atlas booster for flight. The Mercury spacecraft arrived on Nov. 15, 1961, and engineers in Hangar S readied it for its flight.

On May 24, 1962, Carpenter completed America’s second orbital spaceflight during the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission.  Naming his spacecraft Aurora 7, Carpenter completed three orbits of the Earth, conducting several experiments including photography of the planet.

The Atlas booster arrived at the Cape on March 6, 1962, and ground crews lifted it into place at Launch Pad 14. They later installed the Mercury capsule atop the rocket. Following several delays to solve minor issues with the rocket and the spacecraft, managers set May 24 as the launch date.

Carpenter named his capsule “Aurora”, because he viewed his flight as a “celestial event” like the aurora borealis and “7” in honor of his fellow astronauts.

However, people from his hometown didn’t accept his explanation and believed the name originated from his childhood home at the corner of Aurora and Seven Street.

The flight lasted nearly five hours and completed three orbits. A problem with the spacecraft’s attitude and the late firing of its retrorockets during the critical reentry burn resulted in Aurora 7 splashing down 250 miles off course.

Carpenter waited in his life raft for more than an hour before rescue teams recovered him and flew him safely to the prime recovery ship, the U.S.S. Intrepid aircraft carrier.