Cape Canaveral, Florida (JFK+50) Alan B. Shepard, Jr.* was launched aboard the "Freedom 7" spacecraft from the National Aeronautics Space Complex here in Cape Canaveral 53 years ago today, May 5, 1961, becoming the first American in space.
Commander Shepard was launched atop a REDSTONE ROCKET** and his suborbital flight lasted 15 minutes and traveled 116 miles into the Earth's atmosphere.
Alan B. Shepard, Jr. was selected as one of 110 test pilots by NASA in 1959 for potential astronaut selection. He made the final cut to become one of the MERCURY 7.
He was presented with the Distinguished Service Medal by President John F. Kennedy on May 8, 1961.
JFK Pins Medal on Alan Shepard
NASA Photo (May 8, 1961)
A decade later, Shepard, at age 47 the oldest astronaut at the time, returned to space as commander of APOLLO 14 and walked on the moon.
on the Lunar Surface
NASA Image (1971)
Alan B. Shepard, Jr. died after a 2 year battle with leukemia in Pebble Beach, California on July 21, 1998.
His wife, Louise, died 5 weeks later. They are survived by 3 daughters and 6 grandchildren.
*Alan B. Shepard, Jr. (1923-1998) was born in Derry, NH to Lt. Col. ABS Sr. and Renza Shepard. He graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1944 and served in WWII. Afterwards he earned his Naval Aviator wings.
Shepard graduated from the Naval War College in Newport, RI in 1957. After his selection for the Man in Space program he was chosen to be the 1st American to go into space.
After his historic space flight, Shepard became a national hero and was honored with parades in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter presented Shepard with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
**The Redstone Rocket propelled Alan B. Shepard, Jr. and his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule into space. The countdown began at 8:30 p.m on May 4 and Shepard climbed aboard the spacecraft at 5:15 the next morning. Lift off was at 9:34 a.m. Eastern time. The event was witnessed by 45 million television viewers including President Kennedy and VP Johnson.
LBJ, JFK and Jackie
Watch Liftoff of Freedom 7
Photo by Cecil Stoughton
White House Image (1961)
You Tube Video