Cumberland Times-News

October 12, 2013

Rocket man

Scott Carpenter had ‘The Right Stuff’

Cumberland Times-News

— Remember Scott Carpenter? Some of us do. More than 50 years ago, he became the second American to orbit the earth.

Carpenter, who died last Thursday at age 88, was one of our first seven astronauts. John Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the earth, is the sole survivor of the original seven.

Had events transpired differently, one of those two — or another of the first seven — might have come to our area to honor another American hero.

Each year, Keyser High School honors one of its top graduating senior boys with the J. Edward Kelley Award, which is named for a graduate of the school who received the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions as an Army staff sergeant in Europe during World War II.

Someone of note is usually engaged to be the speaker for the Kelley Award ceremony, and the time was that a number of them were lined up by the late Rep. Harley O. Staggers Sr., who was a resident of Keyser.

The late James W. Goldsworthy was Keyser’s principal at the time, and Staggers called him prior to the Kelley Award to ask if he would like to have an astronaut as the speaker. Goldsworthy said that would be most agreeable.

A few days later, Staggers called back to say he had bad news. The seven astronauts were in training and wouldn’t be available.

Would Wernher von Braun be acceptable as an alternative? Von Braun was head of America’s space program.

“Wernher von Braun isn’t going to want to come to Keyser,” Goldsworthy said.

“You’re right,” said Staggers, “he won’t. But he will.” And he did, in 1969.

It was Carpenter who said, “Godspeed, John Glenn,” when the future U.S. Senator from Ohio went into space.

To Carpenter, we would say: “Godspeed, Scott. Thanks for your service to America, and for the inspiration you gave us.”