28 April 2011
50 years ago Project Mercury astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. became the first American in space.
It was 9:34 (EST) in the morning on 5 May 1961 when Alan, strapped to his seat on board Freedom 7, blasted off for a 15 minute, 28 second suborbital flight above Earth. The flight carried Alan to an altitude of 116 statute miles above our home globe.
After splashing down to Earth, Alan was met with fanfare and even received a personal phone call from President Kennedy who had watched Alan's flight on television. The "Kennedy Call" would become a tradition for all manned Mercury flights.
After medical tests and debriefings Alan was found to be in excellent shape, which meant that future manned flights could take place without fear. A few days later President Kennedy presented Alan with the NASA Distinguished Service Award.
Take a look at the following images which chronicle Alan Shepard's flight and return to Earth. (10 Images total):