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Carpenter, who explored the heights of space and the depths of the ocean, died of a stroke Thursday
Along with John Glenn, who flew three months before him, Carpenter was one of the last two surviving original Mercury 7 astronauts for the fledgling U.S. space program
"You're looking out at a totally black sky, seeing an altimeter reading of 90,000 feet and realize you are going straight up," Carpenter said 49 years later in a joint lecture with Glenn at the Smithsonian Institution. "And the thought crossed my mind: What am I doing?"
His four hours, 39 minutes and 32 seconds of weightlessness were "the nicest thing that ever happened to me," he told the NASA historian. "The zero-g sensation and the visual sensation of spaceflight are transcending experiences, and I wish everybody could have them."
Inspired by Jacques Cousteau, Carpenter worked with the Navy to bring some of NASA's training and technology to the seafloor. A broken arm kept him out of the first SeaLab, but he made the second in 1965. The 57-by-12-foot habitat was lowered to a depth of 205 feet off San Diego. A bottlenose dolphin named Tuffy ferried supplies from the surface to the aquanauts below