Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Astronaut tells of travels


Middletown students hear Mars flights not far off

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        MIDDLETOWN — Exactly 42 years after being selected one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, Scott Carpenter was in a Middletown classroom telling students that the Buck Rogers space comics he read as a child came true within 50 years — not 5,000 years, as the author speculated.

        He told students at Project Connect, an alternative for students who've had trouble in regular schools, to expect flights to Mars within 20 years. And he told them going up in space was the culmination of every aviator's dream.

        “It was the natural progression of an aviator's career — to want to fly higher and faster,” Mr. Carpenter said Monday. “My first love was flying.”

        Mr. Carpenter, 75, will share his thoughts on being an astronaut and his involvement with the founding of the Navy's Sealab II project — living and working for 30 days underwater off the coast of California — today at Dave Finkelman auditorium at Miami University's Middletown branch. His free presentation, which will begin at 8 p.m., is part of the Casper Memorial Lecture series.

        Mr. Carpenter, whose flight aboard the Atlas 7 lasted about five hours in May 1962, answered questions from students at University Plaza's Project Connect.

        He spoke of the curiosi ty that led him into the space program — and of the fear he had before each mission.

        “There's nothing wrong with being afraid. The official response was always, "No, we're too busy' (to be afraid), but that's a lie,” Mr. Carpenter said. “Everybody was afraid. It's a good thing if you control it. ... Uncontrolled, it's panic.”

        The discussion about his experiences in space were particularly interesting to 16-year-old Katie Henry, whose dream is to one day become an astronaut.

        “It's inspiring that he would come to this school and speak to us,” Katie said. “He's a phenomenal guy. He's been through a lot of stuff.”

        Mr. Carpenter told the students of the competition between the United States and the former Soviet Union to be the first in space. He likened it to today's competition with China — only not quite as heated.

        And he gave students his thoughts on unidentified flying objects.

        “UFOs absolutely do exist, but flying saucers do not,” said Mr. Carpenter, who believes there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. “Fifty percent of UFOs are deliberate hoaxes, another 45 percent are (phenomena) from this planet not understood by the viewing public, and that leaves just 5 percent. We have no hard evidence of visitation” from other planets.

       



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