JournalTimeless Icons / Los Angeles ’70s / Scott Carpenter


A Space Cowboy, Scott Carpenter

You would only have to watch Mad Men or Pan-Am to understand the glamour and allure of air travel in the ’50s and ’60s but add in the notion of travel to space and you experience a whole new level of awe. Someone who was no stranger to this was debonair astronaut and daredevil Scott Carpenter.

Drawn to the space mission by what he saw as a “chance for immortality” his courage and ability to keep a cool head under pressure were amongst some of his most admirable qualities. Space travel was something he described as “It’s addictive. It’s transcendent. It is a view of the grand plan of all things that is simply unforgettable.” This attitude and his tenacity and skill at his job, made him an icon, yet it was Carpenter’s rebellious streak which marks him out. This was despite controversy that he did not fully follow orders on his flight into space leading to an emergency landing, he was later praised for the way he piloted the craft to safety.

Still a regular fixture in the news, he and his crew mates became icons for their daring personalities and dapper presentation. Though their space suits were spectacular in themselves, off duty they embraced the trends of the time. Living the high life in Los Angeles in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Carpenter was often seen in sharp slim fitting suits and skinny ties, for more formal occasions or for casual attire, plaid sports coats and slacks. His style drew attention to his excellent physique and air of celebrity and he was often photographed next to other stars such as Barbra Streisand. Eventually he caught the eye of Maria Roach, daughter of pioneer film producer, Hal Roach – a man who created the historic successes of the likes of Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. Carpenter was very at home amongst Hollywood Royalty.

Carpenter had a military background and so was no stranger to discipline in his dress and appearance but he wove this into his everyday style and added more exuberant touches to showcase his personality. Either through choice of fabric or intricately patterned ties.

This combination of sharp dressing and an air of “devil may care” also made Carpenter popular with the ladies and he was married four times. It wasn’t just his love life that was eventful following his return from space though. Scott Carpenter then pursued a career in Aquanautic operations. He became involved with the Navy’s SEALAB project, living at a depth of 60 meters underwater and developing underwater training to prepare astronauts for spacewalks. He even had a trained dolphin, Tuffy which delivered supplies to SEALAB II deep below the ocean. Since retirement from the Navy in 1969, Carpenter made his home in Los Angeles, to apply his knowledge of aerospace and ocean engineering technology to the private sector.

Scott’s charm and his thirst for exploring the unknown, saw him take on many adventures and be seen as something of a legend not just in history but pop culture too. The stardust of LA suited him. Carpenter to date has had a film made about him, had his voiceover featured in Star Trek and also had a character in Thunderbirds named after him too. Though his achievements in his fields of science far outway these, we get the impression that Scott Carpenter would never want to be remembered as anything boring or standard and his incredible joie de vivre shines through his writing and tales of him to this day.

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