Tag Archives: Alan Shepard

5 May 1961, 13:34:13.48 UTC, T plus 00:00:00.48

Mercury-Redstone 3 launches from LC-5, 09:34:13 EST, 5 May 1961. (NASA)
Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., astronaut. (NASA)
Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., Astronaut. (NASA)

At 09:34:13.48 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, 5 May 1961, Mercury-Redstone 3 lifted off from Launch Complex 5 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. On board was NASA Astronaut, Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., United States Navy. Shepard had named his spacecraft Freedom 7.

This was the very first time that an American had been carried into space aboard a rocket and came 23 days after Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin had completed one orbit of the Earth.

During the launch, acceleration reached 6.3 gs. The Redstone’s engine shut down at T+02:22, with the rocket having reached a velocity of 6,414 feet per second (1,955 meters per second). 10 seconds later, the Mercury spacecraft separated from the Redstone booster. The spacecraft’s maximum speed was 5,134 miles per hour (8,262.4 kilometers per hour). For the next 5 minutes, 4 seconds, Alan Shepard was “weightless.” Freedom 7 reached a peak altitude of 101.2 nautical miles (187.4 kilometers), 0.9 nautical miles (1.7 kilometers) higher than planned.

Alan B. Shepard, Jr., seated in the cockpit of Freedom 7 before launch, 5 May 1961. (NASA)

Alan Shepard’s flight was suborbital. The rocket launched the capsule on a ballistic trajectory. During the flight, Shepard demonstrated the use of manually controlled thrusters to orient the Mercury capsule in three axes.

Freedom 7 began reentry to the atmosphere at T+07:38. Deceleration forces reached 11.0 gs. Shepard manually controlled the vehicle’s attitude, and once correctly oriented for reentry, reverted to automatic control. With the blunt (bottom) end of the spacecraft forward, aerodynamic drag slowed the capsule. A spherical-segment ablative heat shield protected the space ship and its passenger.

On reaching the lower atmosphere, the capsule’s speed was reduced by a 63-foot (19.2 meter) diameter ring-sail parachute, and a “landing bag” deployed from the base of the spacecraft to provide an impact cushion. The landing, or “splash down,” took place in the Atlantic Ocean, 263.1 nautical miles (487.3 kilometers) down range, 6.8 nautical miles (12.6 kilometers) farther than planned. (N. 75° 53′, W. 27° 13.7′)

The total duration of Alan Shepard’s flight was 15 minutes, 28 seconds.

Alan B. Shepard, Jr., being hoisted aboard the Sikorsky HUS-1 helicopter, N. 75° 53′, W. 27° 13.7′, in the Atlantic Ocean, 5 May 1961. (NASA)

Eleven minutes after splash down, Commander Shepard was hoisted from the capsule to a hovering U.S. Marine Corps HUS-1 Sea Horse (Sikorsky S-58) helicopter of Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (Light) 262 (HMR(L)-262). The helicopter then lifted the Mercury capsule and flew to the nearby U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class anti-submarine aircraft carrier, USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39). The Mercury capsule returned to Cape Canaveral for inspection and found to be in excellent condition.

U.S. Marine Corps HUS-1 Sea Horse (Sikorsky S-58) of HMR(L)-262 hovers while hoisting Alan Shepard from the Freedom 7 after his sub-orbital flight, 5 May 1961. The Mercury capsule will also be lifted from the ocean by the helicopter and carried to USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39). (NASA)
USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39), 1 July 1960. (U.S. Navy)

Freedom 7 was the seventh of twenty Mercury capsules built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation at St. Louis, Missouri, which would also build the follow-on, two-place Gemini spacecraft. It was delivered to Cape Canaveral 9 December 1960. The space capsule was truncated cone with sides angled 20° from the longitudinal axis. It was 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters) long and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.892 meters). The total height of the spacecraft, from the tip of the aero spike to the booster adapter, was 26 feet, 1.26 inches (7.957 meters). At launch, Mercury 7 weighed 4,040.28 pounds (1,832.64 kilograms).

Project Mercury spacecraft under construction at McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. (NASA)

During flight outside the atmosphere, the Mercury spacecraft could be controlled in its pitch, roll and yaw axes by hydrogen peroxide-fueled reaction control thrusters. Both manual and automatic attitude control were available. It could not accelerate or decelerate (except for reentry) so it could not change its orbit.

The spacecraft cabin was pressurized to 5.5 psi with 100% oxygen. The pilot wore a B.F. Goodrich Mark IV Model 3 Type I full-pressure suit and flight helmet for protection in the event that cabin pressure was lost.

The Redstone MRLV rocket was a redesigned, “man rated” version of the Chrysler-built, United States Army M8 medium-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile. It was lengthened to provide greater fuel capacity, a pressurized instrumentation section was added, the control systems were simplified for greater reliability, and an inflight abort sensing system was installed. The rocket fuel was changed from hydrazine to ethyl alcohol. The cylindrical booster was  59.00 feet (17.983 meters) long and 5 feet, 10 inches (1.778 meters) in diameter. The rocket had four guidance fins with rudders mounted at the tail section. (Interestingly, the Redstone stood freely on the launch pad. No hold-downs were used. The guidance fins supported the entire weight of the vehicle.)

Compare the U.S. Army M8 Redstone medium-range ballistic missile in this photograph to the Mercury-Redstone launch vehicle in the photograph above. This rocket, CC-1002, was the first Block 1 tactical rocket, photographed at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, 16 May 1958. (NASA)

The Redstone MRLV was powered by a single NAA 75-110-A7 liquid-fueled engine built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. The A7 produced 78,000 pounds of thrust (346.96 kilonewtons) at Sea Level, and 89,000 pounds (395.89 kilonewtons) in vacuum, burning ethyl alcohol with liquid oxygen.

The total vehicle height of Mercury-Redstone 3, including the booster, adapter, capsule and escape tower, was 83.38 feet (25.414 meters). The total vehicle launch weight was 65,987 pounds (29,931.2 kilograms).

Alan B. Shepard, Jr. is credited with two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World records for this flight:

FAI Record File Num #9519 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: K (Space records)
Sub-Class: K-1 (Suborbital missions)
Category: Spacecraft with one astronaut
Group: General category
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 186.307 km
Date: 1961-05-05
Course/Location: Cape Canaveral, FL (USA)
Claimant Alan B. Shepard, Jr (USA)
Spacecraft: NASA Mercury Redstone MR-7 / Capsule Mercury Spacecraft n°7

FAI Record File Num #9520 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: K (Space records)
Sub-Class: K-1 (Suborbital missions)
Category: Spacecraft with one astronaut
Group: General category
Type of record: Greatest mass lifted to altitude
Performance: 1 832.51 kg
Date: 1961-05-05
Course/Location: Cape Canaveral, FL (USA)
Claimant Alan B. Shepard, Jr (USA)
Spacecraft: NASA Mercury Redstone MR-7 / Capsule Mercury Spacecraft n°7

The flight of Freedom 7 was the first manned spaceflight in the 50-year history of the NASA program.¹ Alan Shepard would later command Apollo 14, the third successful manned lunar landing mission, in 1971.

Alan Shepard’s Mercury spacecraft, Freedom 7, is on display at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts.

Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 on display at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts.

¹  From liftoff of Mercury-Redstone 3 until wheel stop of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-135), the era of NASA’s Manned Spaceflight Programs lasted 50 years, 2 months, 15 days, 20 hours, 23 minutes, 41 seconds.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 April 1959

The Mercury 7: Front row, left to right, LCDR Walter Marty Schirra, USN; CAPT Donald Kent Slayton, USAF; LCOL John Herschel Glenn, Jr., USMC; LT Malcolm Scott Carpenter, USN. Back row, left to right, LCDR Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., USN; CAPT Virgil Ivan Grissom, USAF; CAPT Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr., USAF. (NASA)
The Mercury 7: Front row, left to right, LCDR Walter Marty Schirra, USN; CAPT Donald Kent Slayton, USAF; LCOL John Herschel Glenn, Jr., USMC; LT Malcolm Scott Carpenter, USN. Back row, left to right, LCDR Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., USN; CAPT Virgil Ivan Grissom, USAF; CAPT Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr., USAF. (NASA)

“The selection procedures for Project Mercury were directed by a NASA selection committee, consisting of Charles Donlan, a senior management engineer; Warren North, a test pilot engineer; Stanley White and William Argerson, flight surgeons; Allen Gamble and Robert Voas psychologists; and George Ruff and Edwin Levy, psychiatrists. The committee recognized that the unusual conditions associated with spaceflight are similar to those experienced by military test pilots. In January 1959, the committee received and screened 508 service records of a group of talented test pilots, from which 110 candidates were assembled. Less than one month later, through a variety of interviews and a battery of written tests, the NASA selection committee pared down this group to 32 candidates.

“Each candidate endured even more stringent physical, psychological, and mental examinations, including total body x-rays, pressure suit tests, cognitive exercises, and a series of unnerving interviews. Of the 32 candidates, 18 were recommended for Project Mercury without medical reservations. On April 1, 1959, Robert Gilruth, the head of the Space Task Group, and Donlan, North, and White selected the first American astronauts. The “Mercury Seven” were Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton.”

40th Anniversary of the Selection of the Mercury Seven http://history.nasa.gov/40thmerc7/intro.htm

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21 February 1961

Project Mercury astronauts with Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart 59-0158. (NASA)
Project Mercury astronauts with Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart 59-0158. (NASA)

21 February 1961: Final training begins for Mercury 7 astronauts. Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and John Glenn are selected for the initial flights. Left-to-Right: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.

The aircraft in the photograph is a Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart, 59-0158, a two-place supersonic interceptor trainer.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes
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6 February 1971

Alan B. Shepard conducting geological investigation at the Fra Mauro Highlands, 6 February 1971. (NASA)
Alan B. Shepard conducting geological investigation at the Fra Mauro Highlands, 6 February 1971. (Edgar D. Mitchell/NASA)

6 February 1971: During the second EVA of Apollo 14’s mission to The Moon, Mission Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Dean Mitchell conduct a geological exploration of the area near the Antares Lunar Module landing site.

Captain Alan B. Shepard, Jr., USN, during geology training for the upcoming Apollo 14 mission, Arizona, 1970. (NASA)
Captain Alan B. Shepard, Jr., USN, during geology training for the upcoming Apollo 14 mission, Arizona, 1970. (NASA) 

FAI Record File Num #10301 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: Astronau (Space records)
Sub-Class: K_Absolute (Absolute record for Astronautics)
Category: General
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Extravehicular duration in space
Performance: 9 hr 12 min 27 sec
Date: 1971-02-09
Course/Location: Cape Kennedy, FL (USA)
Claimant Alan B. Shepard, Jr (USA)
Crew Stuart A. ROOSA, Edgar D. MITCHELL (USA)
Spacecraft: Apollo 14

FAI Record File Num #10304 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: K (Space records)
Sub-Class: K-3 (Missions to celestial bodies)
Category: Spacecraft with more than one astronaut
Group: General category
Type of record: Extravehicular duration on the surface of the celestial body by an astronaut
Performance: 9 hr 12 min 27 sec
Date: 1971-02-09
Course/Location: Cape Kennedy, FL (USA)
Claimant Alan B. Shepard, Jr (USA)
Crew Stuart A. ROOSA, Edgar D. MITCHELL (USA)
Spacecraft: Apollo 14

FAI Record File Num #10308 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: K (Space records)
Sub-Class: K-3 (Missions to celestial bodies)
Category: Spacecraft with more than one astronaut
Group: General category
Type of record: Distance covered on foot on the surface of the celestial body
Performance: 1 454 meters
Date: 1971-02-09
Course/Location: Cape Kennedy, FL (USA)
Claimant Alan B. Shepard, Jr (USA)
Crew Edgar D. MITCHELL (USA)
Spacecraft: Apollo 14

FAI Record File Num #10309 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: K (Space records)
Sub-Class: K-3 (Missions to celestial bodies)
Category: Spacecraft with more than one astronaut
Group: General category
Type of record: Total extravehicular duration on the surface of the celestial body by all crew members
Performance: 17h 33mn 29 sec
Date: 1971-02-09
Course/Location: Cape Kennedy, FL (USA)
Claimant Alan B. Shepard, Jr (USA)
Crew Edgar D. MITCHELL (USA)
Spacecraft: Apollo 14

Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot, photographed this sweeping view showing fellow Moon-explorer astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., mission commander, and the Apollo 14 Lunar Module (LM). A small cluster of rocks and a few prints made by the lunar overshoes of Mitchell are in the foreground. Mitchell was standing in the boulder field, located just north by northwest of the LM, when he took this picture during the second Apollo 14 extravehicular activity (EVA-2), on February 6, 1971. (Edgar D. Mitchell/NASA)
Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot, photographed this sweeping view showing fellow Moon-explorer astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., mission commander, and the Apollo 14 Lunar Module (LM). A small cluster of rocks and a few prints made by the lunar overshoes of Mitchell are in the foreground. Mitchell was standing in the boulder field, located just north by northwest of the LM, when he took this picture during the second Apollo 14 extravehicular activity (EVA-2), on February 6, 1971. (Edgar D. Mitchell/NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 February 1971, 09:18:11 UTC, T + 108:15:09.30

The Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares (LM-8) on the surface of The Moon. (NASA)
The Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares (LM-8) on the surface of The Moon. (NASA)

5 February 1971, 09:18:11 UTC, T + 108:15:09.30: The Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares (LM-8), with astronauts Alan B. Shepard and Edgar D. Mitchell aboard, landed at the Fra Mauro Highlands, The Moon.

This was the third manned lunar landing. It was 9 years, 8 months, 30 days, 18 hours, 43 minutes, 58 seconds since Shepard had lifted off from Cape Canaveral aboard Freedom 7, becoming the first American astronaut launched into space.

5 hours, 36 minutes later, at 14:54 UTC, T + 113:51, Alan Shepard stepped on to the surface of The Moon.

Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., Captain, United States Navy, Astronaut, on the surface of The Moon, 5 February 1971. (Edgar D. Mitchell/NASA)
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., Captain, United States Navy, Astronaut, on the surface of The Moon, 5 February 1971. (Edgar D. Mitchell/NASA)
Edgar D. Mitchell died last night, 4 February 2016, at the age of 85 years. (Alan B. Shepard/NASA)
Edgar D. Mitchell, Sc.D., Captain, United States Navy, died last night, 4 February 2016, at the age of 85 years. (Alan B. Shepard/NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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