MSFC History Office NASA Insignia
Photo: Von Braun, Marshall, and Skylab Marshall Space Flight Center
Other History Links MSFC Home MSFC Art Collection NASA Home NASA Privacy Statement Contact Us
Skip Navigation
Home > Mercury, Redstone, Atlas, Gemini > Notes on Alan Shepard’s Flight

Notes on Alan Shepard’s Flight

Overview of Mercury Redstone 3 (Freedom 7), May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard, Jr.

Alan Shepard's suborbital flight lasted only 15 minutes, but it proved that an astronaut could survive and work comfortably in space, and demonstrated to the 45 million Americans watching on TV that the United States was now in the space flight business. Freedom 7 was a ballistic "cannon shot"--Shepard reached no higher than 187.45 kilometers, and traveled only 486.022 kilometers down range from Cape Canaveral. During his short time in space he maneuvered his spacecraft using hand controllers that pitched, yawed and rolled the tiny Mercury capsule with small thrusters. He found the ride smoother than expected and reported no discomfort during five minutes of weightlessness. Although this first Mercury capsule lacked a window, Shepard was able to look down at the Atlantic coastline through a periscope. His view, though, was in black and white--the astronaut had inadvertently left a gray filter in place while waiting on the pad for liftoff.