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Aurora 7

Scott Carpenter, May 24, 1962

What's in a name?

..."I considered naming my capsule Rampart 7 after the Colorado mountain chain. That probably would have been a better name than Aurora. It's shorter and more positive. It would have come through the static better. But I liked Aurora 7. It has a celestial significance and it had a sentimental meaning to me because my address as a child back in Colorado was on the corner of Aurora and 7th Streets in Boulder"...

Astronaut, Scott Carpenter; in "All we did was fly to the moon"

Q: Did you intentionally name your craft Aurora 7 after your hometown street?

A: Not really. I was looking for a word that had some celestial significance. Al Shepard named his Freedom 7 - Freedom for obvious reasons, 7 because it was the seventh spacecraft of the line... The press and everybody else thought that Al named it 7, not because it was spacecraft number 7, but in honor of the seven Mercury astronauts. He never corrected them, we never did, so the misconception remained and everybody who flew in the Mercury program named his spacecraft "Something"-7. So that's how we all got 7. I got Aurora from Aurora Borealis, which is an astronomic phenomenon - which we, of course were about to be! After the fact, it occurred to me that I had been born and raised at a home in Boulder, Colorado, on the corner of Aurora and Seventh streets.

Astronaut, Scott Carpenter; in "Spaceflight News", June 1990.

The Artwork

The logo - designed by Cece Bibby - shows the name Aurora in white, colored circles ("Auroras" - in light blue, orange, yellow and red, with some white for contrast) and a colored "7". On the well known souvenir patch, this "7" is embroidered in silver thread. On the Randy Wagner replica, it is red. During our research, we found that there are not too many color photo's of the logo around, which was probably the reason why Wagner chose for red. In reality, it was blue, and NASA was quite happy about that. Cece Bibby:

,,If you look at the color shot of the whole design you'll see the reason for doing the number in blue. With the name in white and the auroras in reds, yellows and even orange it just made sense to do the number in blue. After Scotty's flight we were really glad I had made the number in blue and that was for idealogical reasons. The Russians/Soviet Union made a big thing out of the name Aurora giving a lot of play in their papers (and internationally) about the fact that the first ship to fire a shot in their revolution against the Tsar was named Aurora. We were just glad I hadn't painted the 7 in red for that particular name. We hadn't even given the USSR's ship Aurora a thought so the choice of color, before Scotty's flight, hadn't even come into play. As I said, it was just the combination of colors that mattered... and I was sure glad of it when the Russians began their crowing about the name. Let's face it, the USSR had a thing about the color red."

The Real Thing

Cece Bibby painting the Aurora logo, explaining it all to Scott Carpanter, a rare color photo (yes, the 7 is blue!) and what was left after the mission.

There is an interesting story attached to the Aurora-logo: as a test, three different kinds of paint were used. Bibby: "I was an avid sportscar enthusiast...having had a couple of MG-As, a TR-3 and one of the first Corvettes. I used to go to sportscar races throughout the south, when time permitted. I would go to the sportscar races at Sebring, Florida, and work on the timing crew. A friend of mine was the head timer for the Sebring races and he also worked for Pittsburgh Paint (I think it was Pittsburgh...been so long ago). Anyway, this friend asked about the paint I had used on John Glenn's flight and the paint test just sort of grew from there. I suggested a test on Scotty's flight. I obtained paint from my friend's company and someone got paint from the other two companies. I divided up the letters in Aurora...used one kind of paint on AU, another on RO and the third on RA. I have a photo taken after re-entry and a couple of the paints held up better than the other but I have no idea which...too long ago. You could tell they had been exposed to extreme heat."

Correspondence with Cece Bibby, November 2001 / January 2002


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