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Carpenter's Overshoot Attributed to Capsule Angle

May 24, 1962 - The overshoot of Lieut. Comdr. Carpenter’s space capsule (pictured left) was said to have been caused by the fact that the nose of the Aurora VII capsule was pointed too high at the time the retro or braking rockets fired to slow its speed and bring it out of orbit. It was not until about an hour after receipt of Lieut. Comdr. Carpenter’s last spoken message as he descended from space that a plane sighted the astronaut bobbing in the ocean in a bright orange life raft. From Project Mercury’s control center came this announcement by Lieut. Col. John A. Powers, project spokesman: “An aircraft in the landing area has sighted the capsule and a life raft with a gentleman by the name of Carpenter riding in it.” It was a moment of profound relief for everyone from the astronaut’s wife and four children to radio listeners at remote corners of the globe. A few minutes later, three Air Force rescue men parachuted to the water. They fastened a large raft to the astronaut’s small one and a flotation collar around the capsule to keep it from sinking. At 4:38 p.m., a little less than eight hours after he had been rocketed into space, the astronaut was picked up by a twin-jet helicopter from the carrier Intrepid. He promptly dispatched a message: “I feel fine.”


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