58 year ago, Alan Shepard was released into background aboard a Mercury Redstone rocket (originally offered by the U.S. Army for missiles), becoming the first American astronaut in space.

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On may 5, 1961, Shepard rocketed into room inside his Freedom 7 capsule. The sub-orbital flight, i m sorry lasted simply over 15 minutes, got to an altitude of 116 miles, and also proved that NASA might send human beings into space. Katherine Johnson, the trailblazing NASA study mathematician, even ran the trajectory analysis for the flight!

Freedom 7 splashed down close to the Bahamas and was recovered by the nearby U.S. Marine carrier Lake Champlain.

Shepard was a hero. Upon his return, he was invited to the White home where president Kennedy bestowed him v the Distinguished organization Medal. The mission to be hailed as a success and a ticker-tape parade in brand-new York City commemorated Shepard’s daring accomplishment.

The success came much less than a month after ~ Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth.

Although Shepard’s flight did not attain this feat, it created the United claims as a contender in the heated space Race and paved the way for future spaceflights like John Glenn’s historic orbital flight, and also the Apollo lunar landing missions further down the road.

According come Space.com, uneven the Soviet success v Gagarin which was kept peak secret, Shepard’s whole flight was broadcast on live tv for the human being to see.

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Shepard to be a component of the “Mercury 7”, the first 7 astronauts selected because that the an initial national room program, job Mercury, which to be born ~ above Oct. 7, 1958. America’s an initial astronauts included Shepard, Gus Grissom, john Glenn, Gordon Cooper, Walter Schirra, Scott Carpenter, and Deke Slayton.

Project Mercury had actually three main objectives follow to NASA: to orbit a crewed spacecraft approximately the Earth, to investigate the capability of a human being to function while in space, and also to recoup both the astronaut and also crew capsule safely upon their return to Earth. In simply 5 short years all three missions of the regime were met.

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Rear Admiral Shepard, the first American in space, and one of only twelve people to to walk on the surface of the moon, died on July 21, 1998. He is remembered for his very first historic spaceflight that captivated the world, and also perhaps for ending up being the first person come hit a golf ball on the lunar landscape during his Apollo 14 mission.

A national hero, and a true pioneer in the field of an are exploration, astronaut Alan Shepard is remembered this day for his contribute to human being spaceflight background and for inspiring a nation to reach because that the moon!

Relive this milestone in American spaceflight background by watching actual footage that the event below: