Cape Hosts 50th Anniversary of U.S.'s First Human Spaceflight
By Auburn Davis, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 13, 2011
PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- On May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard Jr. was launched in the Freedom 7 spacecraft by a Redstone vehicle on a ballistic trajectory, suborbital flight. His orbit lasted 15 minutes and 23 seconds and carried him at an altitude of 303 statute miles.
The success of this launch made him the first American to travel into space, an achievement that opened a door to space travel for the Free World.
Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter and members of the Shepard family joined more than 150 project Mercury workers, former astronauts, military and NASA leaders last week on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this first American in space.
The celebration was held on Complex 5/6, the original Redstone launch pad, and on the pad the Freedom 7 rocket stood tall.
This was one of the many occasions where the Air Force and NASA got to celebrate such a
great accomplishment together.
Former astronaut Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, 14th Air Force commander, spoke at the celebration on the participation of the military during the Freedom 7 Launch.
"The military has played an important part in our human space flight program from the beginning," said General Helms. "Of the seven original astronauts, all had a military background. Three were Air Force officers, three were Navy officers, and one was a Marine officer. The rocket behind us, flown by Alan Shepard, was a product of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency that merged with NASA. The Navy helped train Alan Shepard and was responsible for recovering him when he splashed down. The Air Force, as it does today, was responsible for the operation of the range and the safety of millions of people as the rocket flew downrange. NASA provided the leadership and vision to bring all of the elements and groups together to accomplish extraordinary things."
The Air Force continues to take part in all of NASA¹s Shuttle missions as well as milestone Air Force and commercial launches so one can expect many more momentous anniversary celebrations to come.