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Cape Hosts 50th Anniversary of U.S.'s First Human Spaceflight

Mr. David Toner, U.S. Postal Service governor (left), and Navy Cmdr. (ret.)
Scott Carpenter, former NASA astronaut, unveil two new stamps to honor the
50th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s historic first space launch and the Messenger
mission to orbit Mercury, May 4 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Mr. David Toner, U.S. Postal Service governor (left), and Navy Cmdr. (ret.) Scott Carpenter, former NASA astronaut, unveil two new stamps to honor the 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s historic first space launch and the Messenger mission to orbit Mercury, May 4 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson, Commander of 45th Space Wing, shakes hands with Jacqueline Bolden, wife of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, during the 50th anniversary celebration of the first American in space, Alan Shepard.

Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson, Commander of 45th Space Wing, shakes hands with Jacqueline Bolden, wife of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, during the 50th anniversary celebration of the first American in space, Alan Shepard.

The Patrick AFB Honor Guard presents the colors as Tech. Sgt. Altrameise Myers sings the
National Anthem at the ceremony.

The Patrick AFB Honor Guard presents the colors as Tech. Sgt. Altrameise Myers sings the National Anthem at the ceremony.

More than 150 project Mercury workers, former astronauts, military and NASA leaders came together on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first American in space, Alan Shepard.

More than 150 project Mercury workers, former astronauts, military and NASA leaders came together on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first American in space, Alan Shepard.

Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, 14th Air Force commander, speaks about the involvement of both military and NASA during the Freedom 7 mission.

Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, 14th Air Force commander, speaks about the involvement of both military and NASA during the Freedom 7 mission.

Jay Barbree, NBC Reporter, and Robert (Bob) Moser, former Lead Test Conductor,
remember May 5, 1961 and their participation with the launch during the celebration
of the 50th Anniversary of Commander Alan Shepard’s first space flight.

Jay Barbree, NBC Reporter, and Robert (Bob) Moser, former Lead Test Conductor, remember May 5, 1961 and their participation with the launch during the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Commander Alan Shepard’s first space flight.

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.