Friday, 11 October 2013


My obituary of Scott Carpenter went up at the Guardian online today, you can link to it here, and it ought to be in the paper paper soon. I wish I'd had the time to go back and either read through The Right Stuff or watch the excellent movie: although Carpenter's part is small (as evidenced by his being played by Charles Frank), but it's important; the movie makes it clear that Carpenter is the one who's 'stuff' is seen as questionable--I can't remember offhand if he's shown in confrontation with Chris Kraft directly, but my distinct recollection is that he is the pretty boy, all-American face, and it may be that his troubled family life was part of the perceived problem. At any rate, such speculation was probably best left out of his obituary, but I will now go back to the film to see if my memory is correct.

Otherwise, I am always saddened to recall the immense promise of my country in my youth--John Kennedy promised a man on the moon and we did it in less than a decade. Those crew cut guys with horn-rimmed glasses, short-sleeved white shirts, nerd packs and slide rules sent a few equally crew-cut pilots into space and brought them back using computers the size of my house with less power than the one I'm writing this on now. It was an immense achievement.

The nature of Carpenter's shift from space to the bottom of the sea is actually the sort of conversion that would make an epic film itself--and reading between the lines, his personal life would make it even more so. I lean toward the idea he deserved another chance in space, but the film would probably start with his re-entry, and take the conflict, and his response, from there.

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