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Alan B. Shepard, Jr. America's first astronaut stands in front of the Freedom 7 spacecraft Alan B. Shepard, Jr. America's first astronaut stands in front of the Freedom 7 spacecraft
Alan B. Shepard, Jr., America's first astronaut, stands in front of the Freedom 7 spacecraft shortly after completion of the third flight of the Mercury-Redstone (MR-3) vehicle, May 5, 1961. During the 15-minute suborbital flight, the Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft, launched atop a modified Redstone rocket developed by Dr. Wernher von Braun and the rocket team in Huntsville, Alabama, reached an altitude of 115 miles and traveled 302 miles downrange.
 
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Alan Shepard in his space suit just before launch of Mercury spacecraft Alan Shepard in his space suit just before launch of Mercury spacecraft
A closeup of astronaut Alan Shepard in his space suit seated inside the Mercury capsule. He is undergoing a flight simulation test with the capsule mated to the Redstone booster. 4/29/1961.
 
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Alan Shepard moves into Mercury "Freedom 7" capsule Alan Shepard moves into Mercury "Freedom 7" capsule
Alan Shepard, one of the three prime astronauts, is being inserted into a Mercury capsule. A flight simulation test with a full countdown is programmed for Shepard to check out hardware and launch personnel activities in the Redstone launch. 4/29/1961.
 
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Astronaut Alan B. Shepard in cleanroom before historic Mercury launch Astronaut Alan B. Shepard in cleanroom before historic Mercury launch
Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., makes his way from the elevator to the cleanroom atop the service tower where he'll be inserted into his Mercury space capsule nicknamed "Freedom 7." 5/5/1961.
 
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Astronaut Alan B. Shepard on the deck of U.S.S. Lake Champlain, "Freedom 7" splashdown Astronaut Alan B. Shepard on the deck of U.S.S. Lake Champlain, "Freedom 7" splashdown
Astronaut Alan B. Shepard is seen on the deck of the U.S.S. Lake Champlain after the recovery of his Freedom 7 Mercury space capsule.
 
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Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. before liftoff in the Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. before liftoff in the Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft
Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. awaits liftoff in the Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft on May 5, 1961. This third flight of the Mercury-Redstone (MR-3) vehicle, developed by D. Wernher von Braun and the rocket team in Huntsville, Alabama, was the first marned space mission for the United States. During the 15-minute suborbital flight, Shepard reached an altitude of 115 miles and traveled 302 miles downrange.
 
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Astronaut Alan Shepard picked up by a U.S. Marine helicopter after splashdown Astronaut Alan Shepard picked up by a U.S. Marine helicopter after splashdown
This photo depicts the recovery operations of the MR-3 mission. Astronaut Alan Shepard was picked up by a U.S. Marine helicopter after the completion of the first marned suborbital flight by MR-3 (Mercury-Redstone) with the Freedom 7 capsule.
 
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Astronaut John Glenn enters Mercury spacecraft "Friendship 7" Astronaut John Glenn enters Mercury spacecraft "Friendship 7"
Astronaut John Glenn enters the Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, prior to the launch of MA-6 on February 20, 1961 and became the first American who orbited the Earth. The MA-6 mission was the first manned orbital flight boosted by the Mercury-Atlas vehicle, a modified Atlas ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), lasted for five hours, and orbited the Earth three times.
 
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Astronaut John Glenn enters Mercury spacecraft, "Friendship 7" Astronaut John Glenn enters Mercury spacecraft, "Friendship 7"
Astronaut John Glenn enters Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, prior to the launch of MA-6 on February 20, 1961 and became the first American who orbited the Earth. The MA-6 mission was the first manned orbital flight boosted by the Mercury-Atlas vehicle, a modified Atlas ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), lasted for five hours, and orbited the Earth three times.
 
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Astronaut John Glenn gives ready sign prior to Mercury Atlas 6 launch Astronaut John Glenn gives ready sign prior to Mercury Atlas 6 launch
Astronaut John Glenn gives ready sign during Mercury-Atlas 6 pre launch activities.
 
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Astronaut John Glenn helps Virgil "Gus" Grissom into Liberty Bell 7 Astronaut John Glenn helps Virgil "Gus" Grissom into Liberty Bell 7
Assisted by Astronaut John Glenn, Astronaut Virgil Grissom enters the Mercury capsule, Liberty Bell 7, for the MR-4 mission on July 21, 1961. Boosted by the Mercury-Redstone vehicle, the MR-4 mission was the second manned suborbital flight.
 
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Astronaut John H. Glenn with Flight Surgeon prior to Mercury launch Astronaut John H. Glenn with Flight Surgeon prior to Mercury launch
 Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., Dr. William Douglas astronauts Flight Surgeon, and equipment specialist Joe Schmitt leave crew quarters prior to Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) mission. Glenn is in his pressure suit and is carrying the portable ventilation unit. 1962.
 
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Astronaut Virgil Grissom walks on the recovery ship after suborbital MR-4 mission Astronaut Virgil Grissom walks on the recovery ship after suborbital MR-4 mission
Astronaut Virgil Grissom walks on the recovery ship after completing the 15-1/2-minute suborbital MR-4 mission.
 
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Astronaut Virgil Gus Grissom before launch Astronaut Virgil Gus Grissom before launch
Astronaut Virgil Gus Grissom awaits America's second marned space mission, Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) on July 21, 1961. During the 15-minute suborbital flight, the Liberty Bell 7 Mercury spacecraft reached an altitude of 118 miles and traveled 303 miles downrange. It was the fourth flight of the Mercury-Redstone launch vehicle (MR-4), developed by Dr. Wernher von Braun and the rocket team in Huntsville, Alabama.
 
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Atlas launch vehicle  being unloaded at Cape Canaveral, Florida Atlas launch vehicle being unloaded at Cape Canaveral, Florida
The Atlas launch vehicle is shown being unloaded at Cape Canaveral, Florida. This vehicle was expected to launch a Mercury spacecraft (without any astronauts aboard), built by McDonnell Aircraft Corp., into orbit. The Atlas attempted to place the Mercury spacecraft into its first orbital flight. Project SCORE, the first communications satellite that transmitted President Eisenhower's pre-recorded Christmas speech around the world, was launched on an Atlas. For all three robotic lunar exploration programs, Atlas was used. Atlas/ Centaur vehicles launched both Mariner and Pioneer planetary probes. The current operational Atlas II family has a 100% mission success rating. 04/23/1961
 
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Atlas launch vehicle carrying the Big Joe capsule Atlas launch vehicle carrying the Big Joe capsule
An Atlas launch vehicle carrying the Big Joe capsule leaves its launching pad on a 2,000-mile ballistic flight to the altitude of 100 miles. The Big Joe capsule is a boilerplate model of the marned orbital capsule under NASA's Project Mercury. The capsule was recovered and studied for the effect of re-entry heat and other flight stresses.
 
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Capsule #2 Capsule complete in Lewis Hangar Capsule #2 Capsule complete in Lewis Hangar
Capsule #2. Capsule complete in Lewis Hangar near Cleveland, Ohio. Lewis is now known as the Glenn Research Center.
 
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Chimpanzee Ham is greeted by ships commander after Mercury flight Chimpanzee Ham is greeted by ships commander after Mercury flight
The famous "hand shake" welcome. Chimpanzee Ham is greeted by recovery ship Commander after his flight on the Mercury Redstone rocket.
 
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Close-up view of the fueling of the Liberty Bell 7 for the Mercury-Redstone Close-up view of the fueling of the Liberty Bell 7 for the Mercury-Redstone
Close-up view of the fueling of the Liberty Bell 7 for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) mission. 1961.
 
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Dr. Wernher von Braun and Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper in blockhouse for "Freedom 7" mission Dr. Wernher von Braun and Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper in blockhouse for "Freedom 7" mission
Dr. Wernher von Braun and Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper in the blockhouse during the recovery operation of MR-3 "Freedom 7" mission on May 5, 1961. The MR-3 mission, a 15-1/2 minutes sub-orbital test flight, put the first American, Astronaut Alan Shepard, in space.
 
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Group shot of the original Mercury astronauts Group shot of the original Mercury astronauts
Group shot of the original Mercury astronauts taken at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), Houston, Texas. The astronauts are left-to-right: L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., Walter M. Schirra, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, John H. Glenn, Jr., Donald K. Slayton and M. Scott Carpenter. 1963.
 
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Ham the astronaut chimpanzee in his spacesuit before launching Ham the astronaut chimpanzee in his spacesuit before launching
Ham, a three-year-old chimpanzee in the spacesuit he would wear for the second Mercury- Redstone (MR-2) suborbital test flight in January, 1961. NASA used chimpanzees and other primates to test the Mercury capsule before launching the fisrt American astronaut, Alan Shepard, in May 1961. The Mercury capsule rode atop a modified Redstone rocket, developed by Dr. Wernher von Braun and the German Rocket Team in Huntsville, Alabama.
 
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Ham, the first chimpanzee ever to ride into space, Cape Canaveral, Florida Ham, the first chimpanzee ever to ride into space, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Ham, the first chimpanzee ever to ride into space is shown off by his animal trainer at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  1/31/1961.
 
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Installation of a Mercury capsule and escape system Installation of a Mercury capsule and escape system
Installation of a Mercury capsule and escape system on top of a booster prior to test firing of the Mercury-Redstone at Marshall Space Flight Center's (MSFC's) Redstone Test Stand. Assembled by MSFC, the Mercury-Redstone was designed to place a marned space capsule in orbital flight around the Earth and recover both safely.
 
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Installation of the Mercury capsule and escape system Installation of the Mercury capsule and escape system
This photograph depicts installation of the Mercury capsule and escape system on top of a booster prior to test firing of the Mercury-Redstone launch vehicle at the Marshall Space Flight Center.
 
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Launch of Freedom 7, the first American manned suborbital space flight Launch of Freedom 7, the first American manned suborbital space flight
Launch of Freedom 7, the first American manned suborbital space flight. Astronaut Alan Shepard aboard, the Mercury-Redstone (MR-3) rocket is launched from Pad 5.
 
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Launch of Freedom 7, the first American manned suborbital space flight Launch of Freedom 7, the first American manned suborbital space flight
Launch of Freedom 7, the first American manned suborbital space flight. Astronaut Alan Shepard aboard, the Mercury-Redstone (MR-3) rocket is launched from Pad 5. May 5, 1961.
 
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Launch of Friendship 7, the first American manned orbital space flight Launch of Friendship 7, the first American manned orbital space flight
Launch of Friendship 7, the first American manned orbital space flight. Astronaut John Glenn aboard, the Mercury-Atlas rocket is launched from Pad 14.
 
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Launch of the Little Joe booster for the LJ1B mission Launch of the Little Joe booster for the LJ1B mission
The launch of the Little Joe booster for the LJ1B mission on the launch pad from the wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia, on January 21, 1960. This mission achieved the suborbital Mercury capsule test, testing of the escape system, and biomedical tests by using a monkey, named Miss Sam.
 
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Marine helicopter attempts to retrieve the sinking Liberty Bell 7 capsule Marine helicopter attempts to retrieve the sinking Liberty Bell 7 capsule
U.S. Marine helicopter attempts to retrieve the sinking capsule, Liberty Bell 7, of the MR-4 mission. The attempt failed and the capsule sank. The MR-4 mission marned by Astronaut Virgil Grissom was the second manned orbital flight boosted by the Mercury-Redstone vehicle. The Recovery ship is in the background.
 
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