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Alan Shepard, the First American in Space -- Sixty Years Ago Today

Posted by Guy Pirro 05/05/2021 03:27PM

Alan Shepard, the First American in Space -- Sixty Years Ago Today

Sixty years ago today, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. became the first American in space. At exactly 9:34 AM EST on May 5, 1961, about 45 million Americans sat tensely in front of their black and white television sets and watched a slim Redstone booster rocket with a small and cramped Mercury spacecraft manned by Alan Shepard, lift off its pad at Cape Canaveral and go roaring upward through the clear blue sky. Shepard's capsule, named Freedom 7, made an historic 15 minute suborbital flight, officially kicking off manned Project Mercury flights. With six manned flights from 1961 to 1963, Project Mercury's objectives were very specific: 1) to orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth, 2) to investigate man's ability to function in space, and 3) to recover both man and spacecraft safely -- a set of objectives it achieved with flying colors, thus opening the door for Projects Gemini and Apollo later in the decade.


My favorite quotes from Alan Shepard:
"It's a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract."
"They say any landing you can walk away from is a good one."
"It's been a long way, but we're here."
"You may not have any extra talent, but maybe you are just paying more attention to what you are doing."
"The first plane ride was in a homemade glider my buddy and I built. Unfortunately we didn't get more than four feet off the ground, because it crashed."