|Fifty years ago, near the
of the space age, NASA controllers "lit the candle" and sent
astronaut Alan Shepard arcing into space
atop a Redstone rocket.
His cramped space capsule was dubbed
Broadcast live to a global television audience, the historic
Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) spacecraft was launched from
Cape Canaveral Florida at 9:34 a.m. Eastern Time on May 5, 1961.
flight of Freedom 7 - the first space flight by an American -
followed less than a month after the first human venture into space
by Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
The 15 minute sub-orbital flight achieved an altitude of 116 miles
and a maximum speed of 5,134 miles per hour.
Shepard looked back toward planet Earth near the peak of Freedom 7's
trajectory, he could see the outlines of
the west coast of Florida, Lake Okeechobe in central Florida,
the Gulf of Mexico, and the Bahamas.