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Lot #7001
Functioning Mercury-Atlas 7 Satellite Clock from the Scott Carpenter Collection

Amazing ‘Satellite Clock' from the Aurora 7 spacecraft, a fully functioning post-flight gift presented to Pilot Scott Carpenter: “This clock was on the instrument panel of my space craft, Aurora 7, during my earth orbital space flight on 24 May, 1962 which was the United States' second manned orbital flight. It was given to me by the MA7 Launch Crew"

 
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Estimate: $100000+
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Description

Amazing ‘Satellite Clock' from the Aurora 7 spacecraft, a fully functioning post-flight gift presented to Pilot Scott Carpenter: “This clock was on the instrument panel of my space craft, Aurora 7, during my earth orbital space flight on 24 May, 1962 which was the United States' second manned orbital flight. It was given to me by the MA7 Launch Crew"


Scott Carpenter’s flown Mercury-Atlas 7 onboard satellite clock from the center instrument panel of his Aurora 7 capsule, a mission-critical timing device utilized by Carpenter during retrograde preparations for the spacecraft’s reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Visual evidence of the instrument panel of the Aurora 7 capsule, which is on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, points to the post-flight removal and replacement of the spacecraft’s original satellite clock. Such a detail supports the strongly presumed flown status of the offered satellite clock, which is further substantiated by Carpenter’s included flight-certified letter of authenticity and the discovery of handwriting by launch pad team leader Guenter Wendt within the clock’s wooden presentation frame. Following the Aurora 7’s oceanic recovery northeast of Puerto Rico, the capsule was transported back to Cape Canaveral where members of the MA-7 support team had the clock’s hardware removed and specially refashioned as a unique presentation gift for the pilot. The clock face, 4.75″ x 5.5″, features five main components: a ‘time of day’ clock with 24-hour and 60 min/sec dials; a telelight button for “5 Min to Retrograde”; three digidial counters for ‘Retrograde Time,’ ‘Time from Launch,’ and ‘Time to Retrograde’; and a retrograde time reset handle. As mentioned, the clock has been expertly presented as an impressive mantel-style display piece, measuring 17″ x 9″ x 9.75″ and weighing 22 lbs, the front of which bears a gold-tone plate with an engraved inscription below: “To M. Scott Carpenter, In Commemoration of His 3 Orbit Flight in Aurora 7 on 24 May 1962, from The Launch Crew.”

The “5 Min to Retrograde” telelight is specifically mentioned by Carpenter in the ‘MA-7 Air-Ground Voice Communications’ transcript found in the official postflight NASA report ‘Results of the Second United States Manned Orbital Space Flight May 24, 1962.’ During his third and final pass of Hawaii, the station’s Capcom requested Carpenter to make two critical retrosequence items: to switch off the emergency drogue-deploy and the emergency main fuses. At a time of 04 27 13.5, Carpenter replied: ‘Roger, they are. Okay, I'm going to fly-by-wire to Aux Damp, and now — attitudes do not agree. Five minutes to retrograde, light is on. I have a rate of descent, too, of about 10, 12 feet per second.’

Additionally, the plate features a timeline of MA-7 mission events that encircles the clock, effectively relaying the tale of Carpenter’s now infamous reentry, a purported combination of pilot error and technical malfunction that resulted in the Aurora 7 splashing down some 250 miles off its target. The plate chronologically lists the following events, times, and measurements: “Lift Off 07:45:16,” “BECO [Booster Engine Cutoff] 07:47:24,” “SECO [Sustainer Engine Cutoff] 07:50:25,” “CAP SEP 07:50:28,” “Apogee 166.82 N.M.,” “Perigee 86.87 N.M.,” “Retro Fire, 12:18:26,” “Drogue, 12:36:10,” “Main, 12:37:04,” and “Impact, 12:41:20.” The presence of the retrograde time is perhaps most consequential, as Carpenter activated the retrorockets three seconds later than planned; this delay, compounded by a malfunctioning pitch horizon scanner, forced Carpenter to control his reentry manually. As a consequence, the Aurora 7 missed its landing area broadly and Carpenter, no worse for wear, was left to float alone in his life raft for nearly an hour before recovery vehicles arrived on the scene.

The front plate also contains four additional buttons and switches, and a two-prong power cord extends out from the clock’s paneled base, which, once unscrewed, opens to reveal the mantel clock’s impressive inner workings; of further interest is the underside of the removed panel, which is annotated in black felt tip by noted McDonnell engineer and launch pad supervisor Guenter Wendt, “Design: G. F. Wendt, July 1962” and “Keep your #6I/#@ hands off!! Ye old PAD FUHRER.” The panel is also annotated to the right by the craftsman, “Woodwork: C. R. Coyle, ‘62.” Below is an affixed “Power Supply Schematic,” dated August 22, 1962, ostensibly for the clock presentation, as well as additional ink notations: “Item: T-133, Part: 45-81710-9, Serial #: 7, 1-18-76, J.M.F.” In fine, functional condition, with some patina and scuffing to the front plate. Accompanied by a signed and flight-certified letter of authenticity from Carpenter, who states: “This clock was on the instrument panel of my space craft, Aurora 7, during my earth orbital space flight on 24 May, 1962 which was the United States' second manned orbital flight. It was given to me by the MA7 Launch Crew.”

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Space Exploration and Aviation
  • Dates: #677 - Ended October 19, 2023