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Did Scott Carpenter screw up?

Just heard about the death of Scott Carpenter tonight, and after reading a comment over at Commander Salamander's place, I had to snark a little.

I decided to post the reply here.

Andrew, Ms. Tietel is very pretty {g} but I have to wonder about her un-cited sources in that article. Wiki has published a different account.

Yes, I know, it's popular to beat up on Wiki, but I find them fairly reliable on non-hot-button topics like Obamacare or gun control. In fact (given the enthusiasm and "by any means necessary" attitude demonstrated by gun-grabbers to dominate any discussion) the non-hot-button Wiki articles on guns seem rather accurate.

With respect to the attitude system, even Ms. Tietel admits "Problems with Aurora 7’s internal guidance system dogged the flight." But according to Wes Oleszewski: "By the 16:19 point ... Carpenter reported 'I think my attitude is not in agreement with the instruments. What he was seeing was a beginning of a degradation in his ASCS." Another note: "As Carpenter focused on the Venus experiment he inadvertently left his automatic and manual thrusters on."

According to Ms. Tietel "Flight director Chris Kraft considered Carpenter to be the least qualified of all Mercury astronauts; his performance in a training exercise the year before had revealed how little he understood of the business of spaceflight. Carpenter had been assigned the role of capcom to Alan Shepard on his Freedom 7 flight. Running though simulations before the mission, Carpenter had revealed his “shallow” understanding of the Mercury capsule and its procedures. In simulation after simulation, he sat at the console flipping switches seemingly at random, often time not realizing the simulated launch had been aborted."

I have to ask just why NASA (famous for their insistence on 100% 'everything') allowed the man into a capsule. Please don't tell me "because it would look bad." Do you think those men would risk someone's life, or the program itself, for good PR? I also have to wonder if Carpenter's alleged fumbling in the capsule had something to do with Carpenter's post-flight observation that "the procedure for caging the gyros, although practiced in the simulator, was not done with live equipment and a visual presentation. He found that frequently-simulated procedures now ate up valuable time and had a similar difficulty to loading the film in out of the camera with the spacesuit and gloves on. Likewise he found that there was nowhere near enough time to allow for the transition from one activity, or experiment to another." That is to say, the expectations of what was an "X" flight turned out to be optimistic.

Let us examine the claim that Carpenter didn't "follow instructions." We will leave aside for the moment whether a test pilot should do so. :) Given all of Ms. Tietel's claims towards his, ahh "approach" to the attitude systems, the balloons, and so on, Wes would seem to counter-indicate that the astronaut was following instructions, but the "mixture of a new program, a new spacecraft and a three orbit flight peppered with experiments was an unhealthy combination."

Ms. Tietel (and you) might respond that Carpenter cavalierly exited the capsule, but according to Wes, he "did exactly what he was trained to do. He exited the spacecraft..."

Honestly, the claim that he didn't stay in the capsule would apparently be your strongest, if I may abuse the word. Dunno that I would be all that excited about staying inside a tin can so small the couch had to be literally molded from my body while floating in the (warm) Caribbean sun. How dare he jump in a raft and float in the water! Bastiche. {/snerk}


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