May 5, 1961: Alan Shepherd becomes the first American in space

It’s late, but better late than never, eh?  Today isn’t just Cinco de Mayo; it’s also the anniversary of Americans in space.  Americans have been going to space for 55 years now.  SpaceflightNow linked to this amazing news broadcast from the occasion; skip ahead 2 minutes if you only want to see the rocket do its thing.  That’s Freedom 7, a Mercury capsule, aboard a Redstone rocket launching from Cape Canaveral Air Station.  The Redstone was essentially an uprated V-2; nearly identical engine, same flight control design, same propellants.  It was not capable of orbital flight, and was originally built as an intermediate range ballistic missile.  So, enjoy the news footage, and see how similar and how different it is to the modern live coverage.

In other space news, SpaceX is preparing for their next orbital launch, and another sea landing attempt.  It was scheduled for early today, but Florida weather got in the way.  They’ll try again the wee hours of the morning on May 6.


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