Alan Shepard, the first American in space and the fifth to walk on the moon, the only one of the Mercury 7 to do so.
I watched Project Mercury with amazement at the age of 10, as did all of America.
Project Mercury commemorative stamp mint sheet
We watched one of the space program’s first nail-biters as John Glenn re-entered the atmosphere with his retropack still attached… controllers were worried that the capsule’s heat shield may have partially detached, and decided to allow re-entry without jettisoning the retrorockets so that the straps would help the heat shield stay on. As history records, the capsule returned to earth safely.
The Freedom 7 II Mercury Capsule 15B. Shepard had hoped to repeat his historic flight in this capsule, now in the Udvar-Hazy annex of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian, but NASA was by that time turning their attention to the Gemini program.
The original Freedom 7 capsule on display at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The capsule is now on the road and will ultimately find a home at the Smithsonian some time in 2016.
Over 50 years after John Glenn’s historic flight in Friendship 7, the end of the space shuttle program means we now have no way of launching our own astronauts into space. The way things are going, it looks like private industry will be successful in coming up with new re-usable vehicles before our government ever gets back on the bandwagon. Somehow I think that’s sad, in light of the billions of dollars being wasted overseas on questionable military ventures and wasteful hardware programs.
The Old Wolf has spoken.