Scott Carpenter was one the original Mercury 7 astronauts and a former Naval aviator. Carpenter died on Thursday. He was 88. The following was a 2001 interview in Naval History magazine.
In his Aurora 7 spacecraft on 24 May 1962, one of the original Mercury 7 space pioneers became the second American to orbit the Earth. After a rather rocky flight, overshooting his splashdown target by 250 miles, he was assigned to monitor the design and development of the lunar module for the Apollo project. He then took leave from the space program in the spring of 1965 to serve as an aquanaut in the U.S. Navy’s SeaLab II project, spending 30 days 205 feet below the surface off the coast of La Jolla, California. “The first person to explore both of humanity’s great remaining frontiers” talked recently with Naval History editor Fred L. Schultz between sessions of a Naval Forces Under the Sea symposium sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Naval Academy.
Naval History: I’ll start with the inevitable question. How would you compare deep-sea exploration to space flight?
Carpenter : In the near term, and maybe for an extended term, deep-sea exploration is much more important. In the long term, space is the last frontier. But in the near term, the ocean needs better attention and a clearer understanding. And that’s what we are trying to achieve. It used to be that deep-sea exploration was primarily a defense-oriented project. In a way, it’s still defense-oriented; but we’re trying to defend the planet now, instead of just this country.