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For Spacious Skies: The Uncommon Journey of a Mercury Astronaut Hardcover – Jan 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (Jan. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151004676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151004676
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.1 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 600,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Feb. 2003
Format: Hardcover
Since Gordon Cooper published his autobiography in the year 2000, there was only one Mercury astronaut remaining who had not written his own book about his space experiences. Many wondered if Scott Carpenter, in many ways the most enigmatic of the living astronauts of that era, would ever do so.
Carpenter, after all, had come in for a withering printed attack in 2001, when former NASA flight director Chris Kraft published his autobiography, "Flight." In the four decades that have passed since his space flight, Carpenter had endured many remarks about his piloting skills on his space flight with his characteristic good grace. With the publishing of Kraft's book, however, it was beginning to look like Kraft's views would become the accepted version of events for historians to use. A response was needed to give the other side of the story - and, thankfully, Scott Carpenter has written it. The resulting book is co-authored with Carpenter's daughter, Kris Stoever, who was six years old when her father became the second American to orbit the Earth. The book offers a level-headed, clear response to the accusations that Kraft and others made, offering unique insights into the flight of Aurora 7 from the man who was there.
This book is far more than a response to others. Carpenter and Stoever open by weaving a warm family history of growing up in Boulder, Colorado in the 1920s, using extracts from family letters to give unexpectedly vivid insights into an era that was already passing away with Carpenter's grandfather's generation. The book, however, is no cozy, romantic trip to a bygone idyll; the letters they wrote to each other portray a splintering, disintegrating marriage in which young Scott could not rely on either of his parents for his needs.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 11 Dec. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Supposedly, Scott Carpenter was the Mercury astronaut who didn't quite have the Right Stuff. Maybe he screwed up his one spaceflight. Why didn't he get a Gemini flight? Most of the questions about Scott's early career, and more besides, are answered in this beautifully written book. More than a biography or autobiography, it also gives a tantalising glimpse into Pioneer-time Colorado and Depression-era America, which whets the appetite for more details of both. This, surely, is due to the book's co-author, Kris Stoever, Carpenter's daughter, and a trained historian.
My only disappointment is that, whereas most astronauts' careers followed pretty similar paths, Scott's did not; instead of heading for Outer Space after his first and only mission, he opted for Inner Space and the Navy's Man in the Sea Sealab Project. I know very little about this and would have been keen to learn much more; sadly, the book only accords a few pages to the undertaking.
Altogether, though, the book is a touching and scholarly appraisal of one of the lesser-known astronauts.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 25 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A Star in the Sky 21 Jan. 2003
By R. Glueck - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Scott Carpenter's autobiography, written with his daughter, Kris Stoever, is the last, long awaited testament from the Mercury astronauts. Along with Deke Slayton's and Mike Cassutt's "Deke!", it is possibly the most informative of these rememberances. The book is more accurately detailed than "Schirra's Space", better grounded in facts than Shepard's "Moon Shot", more interactive than John Glenn's memoir, and ...uh...let's say, far surpasses Cooper's "Keeping Faith".
Carpenter's book is footnoted throughout, and the authors have made many references to other credible manuscripts to support their recollections of the time. Personal recollections from Gene Kranz are referenced at least once, and both John Glenn and Wally Schirra proofread the manuscript prior to publication.
Scott Carpenter's life has been overall, a great experience tinged with personal losses. His parents lived apart, his mother suffered from t.b., his father's approval always needed to be earned. Marriage's have brought the promise of secure relationships, but have not lasted over time. One senses the deepest loss in his relationship with Rene, who documented much of his personal history and the contemporary truths of the Mercury years. The overall sense is that two sharply intellectual adults somehow outgrew each other, when they still complimented the other so well. Rene's journals, it is revealed, provided Tom Wolfe with a great deal of his impressions for "The Right Stuff", some of which was re-written as "the wrong stuff" according to Carpenter and Stoever.
Of course, the real meat of the book is Scott's recollection of the mission of "Aurora 7", and the keen disappointment in having to displace Deke Slayton in what should have been his moment of glory. How does one enjoy his own great moment in the gloomy pallor of a friend's defeat? Nobody liked what happened to Deke, nobody, including Scott and back up pilot Schirra, liked the reassignments. Management was blindsided by John Glenn's super-celebrity power, fresh and wieldy. Scott Carpenter was thrust into a crammed flight plan, a management team which was waiting to pounce upon any perceived "screw ups", and a spacecraft with serious mechanical flaws, which began to appear at launch. Did Scott Carpenter "malfunction", as Chris Kraft contends in an entire chapter of his own book? Scott readily admits trying to squeeze every science minute he could from the flight, and making that his priority. Voice recordings and bio-med data show that the pilot was aware of the situation he was in during re-entry. The fact that he brought his spacecraft back intact is cited as evidence of a pilot in control. Kraft gets his well-earned respect too, but the feisty nature of the flight controller is referred to again and again. And while Carpenter did not fly again, the choice appears to have been his own, and not one imposed upon him. Readers will have to divine that truth for themselves. Overall the authors have attempted to remain measured, objective, and fair in dealing with Carpenter's contemporaries.
"For Spacious Skies" is imperative reading for space historians. It is candid, tells much about the elite group of men and women who found themselves cultivated by the Kennedy White House, and thrust into the glory years of space flight. The extra effort in backing up statements with other records and recollections sets this book apart from similar astronaut biographies.
Well done.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Worth the Long Wait 28 Dec. 2002
By Colin Burgess - Published on
Format: Hardcover
My interest in manned spacecraft was first piqued by the much-delayed Mercury flight of John Glenn, and I followed the subsequent 1962 mission of Scott Carpenter aboard his Aurora 7 spacecraft with even greater enthusiasm. As the decades passed and other Mercury astronauts wrote their autobiographies, I began to wonder if Scott Carpenter was ever going to tell his story, which I have always found to be far more exciting and multi-dimensional than those told by most of his colleagues. I was certainly not disappointed. "For Spacious Skies" is a truly wonderful and well written book, and gives an enjoyable background to a man about whom there has often been much speculation and interest - particularly in recent years when a certain NASA flight controller decided to vent his spleen on Carpenter and his Mercury mission in his own memoirs. This book is, in part, an obvious response to this criticism, and certainly clears the decks in many ways. Better written and far more readable than most of the other Mercury Seven astronaut biographies, this is a touching and often dramatic account of the life of a man who is regarded as one of the true pioneers and adventurers of spaceflight. Dealt many poor hands in life, he nevertheless seized his opportunities when they came along, and his resolve comes through loud and clear in this book. While many space enthusiasts and historians know that Scott Carpenter's story will, sadly, never be free of the controversies that attend his life and his single Mercury orbital mission, his flight should nevertheless be remembered as a very important and major contribution to the state of spaceflight knowledge in those early days, when brave men rode rockets that had a worrying reputation for blowing up. He and his co-author daughter Kris have now set the record straight on those controversies with the same intensity, determination and focus that characterized his time as an astronaut, and later as an aquanaut researcher in the service of his nation. No collection of astronaut autobiographies and biographies could ever be considered complete without this wonderful, evocative and powerful book.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
We Finally Hear Carpenter's Story 17 Aug. 2003
By Eric B. Smith - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Scott Carpenter has the worst reputation of the Mercury Seven. Chris Kraft's book "Flight" dedicates a complete chapter to attacking Carpenter. Using numerous footnotes, the book references many NASA reports which cite a mechanical failure which nearly doomed his mission.
The book seems to be a family history written by Carpenter's daughter, Kris Stoever. Thus, the reader must adjust to reading about Carpenter in the third person. Carpenter does take over in the chapters about his flight, writing in the first person. Adding to the difficulty reading the book, the writers assume that the reader can keep track of the year different events happened. However, the story is not chronilogical, so one must guess at the year when signifigant events (child birth, transfer to a new Navy base) occur. Too bad this book did not do a better job of completing the timeline for the reader. Particularly surprising his how Carpenter's last three marriages are summarized in a 6-line paragraph on the second to last page.
I recommend reading this book if you want to hear Carpenter's view of his flight. But be prepared to for a bumpy ride, as the book is not pulled together into the consistent story one would expect.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Interesting. But . . . 13 May 2003
By Dave English - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love reading about flying in space. And this book by a real hero is good. But not great. It is mostly written by his daughter, in the third person. You don't get that 'up close' feel. You get slighty dry text. I did learn about an amazing time, an amazing journey, but would have liked a little more.

If you love this subject, then this is a must have book. But if are new to reading about the early space program, there are better books to start with. Follow some of the links, search a little, and then come back and get this book if you are hooked.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
An amazing story by an amazing man 17 Jan. 2003
By "dgrad" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I come predisposed to liking this book, having worked closely with Scott Carpenter in 1990 as an editor/book doctor on his first book, a novel entitled STEEL ALBATROSS. Scott is charming, down-to-earth, and endlessly fascinated by the way things work, and what is possible in the future, never dwelling on past successes, and without the tiniest bit of an inflated ego. In short, he was a great guy to know and to work with. But having just finished FOR SPACIOUS SKIES, I have a new measure of respect for him. What a childhood he endured--from his family situation to financial hardships. It is enough to make you cry. But perhaps that is where his immense strength of character was formed, and his ability to overcome virtually any obstacle. Every part of Scott's personal story is fascinating--from the tales of his pioneer forebears to the incredible selection process for the first seven astronauts, to his famous (or infamous) flight in Aurora 7--and readers will come away with an appreciation for the difficulties not only of the early days of the space program, but of just what it took to get there. An integral part of the story are the two main women featured--Scott's brave and determined mother, Toye, and his smart, funny, and strong first wife, Rene. Without their presence, FOR SPACIOUS SKIES would not be as powerful a book as it is. Congratulations, Scott. I've waited a long time for you to write this book. You have the Write Stuff, indeed.
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