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Take a Ride with Alan Shepard Aboard Freedom 7

On this day in 1961, May the 5th at 9:34 a.m. Eastern time, NASA astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. became the first American to travel into space with the launch of his Freedom 7 vehicle atop a Mercury-Redstone rocket. Shepard reached an altitude of 116.5 miles during his 15-minute suborbital flight before splashing down in the Atlantic, setting the stage for the first orbital spaceflight by John Glenn on Feb. 20 of the next year and all future Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo lunar missions (the 14th of which Shepard was commander in 1971.)

Liftoff of the 82-foot-tall Mercury-Redstone with Freedom 7 from Cape Canaveral on May 5, 1961. (NASA)

The video above from YouTube user lunarmodule5 shows Shepard’s historic flight from liftoff to splashdown with views from the pad as well as from inside the Freedom 7 capsule, showing film footage of Shepard and renderings of the capsule in position followed by photographs from splashdown and recovery.

The date of this important event is not coincidentally shared with the newly-dedicated National Astronaut Day, which celebrates America’s brave spacefaring heroes.

Want to learn more about the inimitable Al Shepard? Check out Neal Thompson’s excellent biography Light This Candle — read my review here.

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Take a Ride with Alan Shepard Aboard Freedom 7

55 years ago today, at 9:35 a.m. EST on May 5, 1961, NASA astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. became the first American to travel into space with the launch of his Freedom 7 vehicle atop a Mercury-Redstone rocket. Shepard reached an altitude of 116.5 miles during his 15-minute suborbital flight before splashdown in the Atlantic, setting the stage for the first orbital spaceflight by John Glenn on Feb. 20 of the next year and all future Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo lunar missions (the 14th of which Shepard was commander of in 1971.)

The video above by Matthew Travis shows Shepard’s historic flight from liftoff to splashdown with annotated views from the pad as well as from inside the Freedom 7 capsule, showing Shepard and his instrument panel.

The date of this important event is not coincidentally shared with the newly-dedicated National Astronaut Day, which celebrates America’s brave spacefaring heroes. (Do you have a favorite astronaut story? Share it in the comments below.)

Want to learn more about the inimitable Al Shepard? Check out Neal Thompson’s excellent biography Light This Candle — read my review here.

From the LITD Archives: Sinking the Shot

A lunar hole-in-one

Alan Shepard may have played some moon golf during his visit in 1971 but even he wouldn’t have been up to par with this course. 😉 This photo shows the trail of a house-sized (33-foot-wide) lunar boulder that has rolled downhill and come to rest inside the rim of a crater. The image was taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera.

The boulder may have come dislodged from its previous location by a meteorite hit or a “moonquake” (yes, the moon has its own versions of earthquakes!) It rolled downhill, apparently bouncing a few times along the way (noted by gaps in the trail) and took a sharp right turn when it encountered a crater rim, coming to rest on the inner slope. And there it’s sat for who knows how long. Without weathering processes (besides a relentless rain of micrometeorites) the boulder’s trail will stay visible for hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of years.

Read more on the LROC site here.

Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

Originally posted on May 21, 2010

Light This Candle

“Why don’t you fix your little problem and light this candle?”

– Alan B. Shepard, Jr., to Mission Control after delays during his four-hour sit atop the Mercury-Redstone rocket. May 5, 1961.

View of Earth from Shepard’s Freedom-7 suborbital capsule, May 5, 1961

On this day in 1961, fifty years ago, a 10-story Mercury-Redstone 3 rocket ignited at Cape Canaveral, Florida, successfully launching the first American into space. The Soviet Union had already beaten the US to this accomplishment – as did several chimps, monkeys, bugs and a couple of dogs – and with the country wondering how we were going to respond to the challenge the first of a new breed of heroes was successfully sent where no American man had gone before. That man was a accomplished, awarded, charismatic – and rather enigmatic – pilot named Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and this is his story.

Read the rest of this entry

Sinking the Shot

A lunar hole-in-one

Alan Shepard may have played some moon golf during his visit in 1971 but even he wouldn’t have been up to par with this course. 😉 This photo shows the trail of a house-sized (33-foot-wide) lunar boulder that has rolled downhill and come to rest inside the rim of a crater. The image was taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera and released today, May 21.

The boulder may have come dislodged from its previous location by a meteorite hit or a “moonquake” (yes, the moon has its own versions of earthquakes!) It rolled downhill, apparently bouncing a few times along the way (noted by gaps in the trail) and took a sharp right turn when it encountered a crater rim, coming to rest on the inner slope. And there it’s sat for who knows how long. Without weathering processes (besides a relentless rain of micrometeorites) the boulder’s trail will stay visible for hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of years.

Read more on the LROC site here.

Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

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