Alan B. Shepard, the first American in space

6 May

On the morning of May 5, 1961 approximately 45 million people were glued to their television sets to watch as Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. became the first American is space. The launch was suppose to take place at 7:20am ET but was delayed due to cloud cover. Despite the delay those tuning in to watch the launch eagerly waited in front of their television sets. After a wait of more than 2 hours he viewers were finally rewarded as the MR-3 (Mercury Redstone 3) lifted off at 9:34 am ET (6:34 am PT).

Once the launch took place Mr. Shepard was rocketed in to space reaching a top speed of 5,134 mph (miles per hour) as he rose to a height of 116.5 miles above the Earth. After reaching the apogee of his flight Mr. Shepard would carry out the objectives of his mission of testing the maneuverability of the Freedom 7 capsule and make observations of the Earth. The mission was carried off without a hitch and 15 minutes and 28 seconds after the launch the Freedom 7 capsule splashed down in Lake Champlain. There the capsule and Mr. Shepard were recovered and helicoptered back to Cape Canaveral.

The road leading up to the launch was 6 months in the making. The Mercury capsule was originally delivered to Cape Canaveral, Florida on Dec. 9, 1960. The people at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) were hoping that they could quickly get the capsule and booster rocket ready so they could bet the Soviet Union at getting a man in space. It was soon determined that all the maintenance and testing would take longer than first thought. By the time everything was ready for the mission the Soviet Union had already sent a man into space. Once again we were beaten in the space-race. It would not be the last time the United States came in second but soon we would surpass our rivals and the only ones in space.


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