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Alan Shepard in Mercury capsule, MR3

Alan Shepard in Mercury capsule, MR3

S320/0064

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Credit

NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

The first American in space. Astronaut Alan Shepard sits in the capsule of his Mercury spacecraft, just before launch. Shepard was the first American in space, making a sub-orbital flight of 15 minutes 22 seconds on 5 May 1961. This flight was launched 23 days after Gagarin's historical orbital flight, much to the chagrin of America. Shepard's craft, named Freedom 7, reached an altitude of 187.5km, a speed of 8336 km/h and landed in the Atlantic Ocean 486km from launch. He was weightless for about 5 minutes of the flight, experiencing forces of 6g on take-off and 11g on re-entry. Shepard later flew to the Moon on Apollo 14 in 1971.

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