Today marks the National Astronaut Day of America, which is held every year on May 5 to celebrate the historic flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space. It was a Friday morning on May 5, 1961, when NASA Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to reach space, climbing into the Freedom 7 capsule to make the history. He reached a maximum altitude of 116 miles (187 kilometers) during a 15-minute and 22-second suborbital flight aboard the Freedom 7 capsule. Just 23 days prior to this, the Soviet Union had sent Astronaut Yuri Gagarin on the Vostok 1 orbital mission, who then became the first human space traveler on April 12 of that year.
Alon Shepard’s productive experience in the Navy serving in the world war 2 and as a test pilot after the war helped set him up for a career as an astronaut. Shepard was a Mercury 7 astronaut, which are recognized as one of the first astronauts NASA ever selected for the space program. It’s been 58 years since Shepard became the first American to ever reach space.
Shepard was originally scheduled to lift off in the morning at 7:20 a.m. ET, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, but the launch was delayed due to unfavorable weather conditions and clouds, according to NASA. Well, there was one more issue delaying the launch.
Another issue was electrical: An inverter was to be replaced and after that a computer at Goddard Space Center, where the flight was being observed, required checking. Taking all things into consideration, the obstacles pushed the launch to 9:34 a.m., over two hours after the first launch time. Then finally, the Redstone rocket thundered to space and Shepard achieved a height of 116 miles over the Earth before he returned safely and splattered down in the Atlantic Ocean, where it was rescued by an aircraft carrier.
The excursion to the moon was Shepard’s last journey to space yet he kept working for NASA. He was the leader of the Astronaut Office until the point when he resigned in 1974, according to NASA.
That being said, Shepard was the first ever American to go to space, yet he wasn’t the first to orbit the blue planet Earth. Mercury 7 space traveler, John Glenn, was the first American to orbit the planet the following year. Shepard again returned to space with a mission to the moon back in 1971, 10 years past his first mission. Amid his second mission, Apollo 14, he arrived on the moon where he led tries and gathered moon rocks with his fellow NASA space traveler Edgar Mitchell.