Shepard’s Shot

The first American spaceflight was a triumph—for an astronaut and for a nation.


MR-3 Launch


Launch of the Mercury-Redstone 3 rocket with Alan Shepard onboard, 9:34 a.m., May 5, 1961. The Redstone had been used to launch missiles, but not people, and had to be modified for the Mercury program. Shepard's rocket had a longer fuel tank than previous Redstones, and—most importantly—an escape system that would quickly separate the capsule from the booster in case of a launchpad explosion.

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