Fifty years ago on May 5, 1961, only 23 days after Yuri Gagarin of the then-Soviet Union became the first person in space, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard launched at 9:34 a.m. EDT aboard his Freedom 7 capsule powered by a Redstone booster to become the first American in space. His historic flight lasted 15 minutes, 28 seconds. Photo and caption: NASA.
By Rod Sainty
Today is the 50th anniversary of America's first manned space flight, Freedom 7, on May 5, 1961. The photo below—today's Astronomy Picture of the Day—is an interesting counter-point to the Apollo 11 Saturn V photo Mike posted on July 16, 2009. There's a photo of Alan Shepard at NASA's Image of the Day Gallery.
I was very impressed with a short film on Alan Shepard's flight, with excellent historic photographs and footage interspersed with current-day interviews of an emotional Chris Kraft and Shepard's two adult daughters.
By the way, Jack King has a brief interview in the film; it's interesting to see the face behind the familiar voice that read the countdown for Apollo 11.
One of the world's most elite clubs: The original seven U.S. astronauts. From left to right, M. Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, Walter M. Schirra Jr., Alan B. Shepard Jr., and Donald K. Slayton. This print is for sale.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Paul W. Luscher: "I'm old enough to remember watching this. Remember they stuck on an old Laurel & Hardy movie for while, because of a technical delay. Much too young at the time (I was five) to realize the significance of this...."
Featured Comment by Richard Parkin: "As someone whose home was blown up by the predecessor of Werner von Braun's Redstone—launched with a different kind of payload when he was working for his previous employer—I have always had mixed feelings about this."
Featured Comment by Craig Lee: "I had the fortune to briefly meet Mr. Shepard at a local signing for his book Moon Shot. I remember him as a fairly humble man, who graciously spoke with everyone who had come to see him. Looks like I will have to read the book again this weekend.
"Oh, there are quite a few photographs from NASA's archives illustrating the book. There is also a film of the same name produced synchronously with the book."
Featured Comment by David Robinson: "All this sent me to Wiki for a good hour or so,loved this reply from Shepard when asked what he thought about while waiting to be launched atop the Redstone rocket: 'The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder.' The only thing these guys get from me is awe."