On May 5, 1961, Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. became the first American in space. He took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule. His flight lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles into the atmosphere, which was a major win for NASA at the time.
Alan B. Shepard Jr. becomes first American in space - May 5, 1961
This day in history: The first American in space
Mercury astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., photographed April 1960. Alan Shepard died July 22, 1998. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
A Marine helicopter lifts astronaut Alan Shepard from a Mercury capsule during a training session for a 'man in orbit' space shot. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
US astronaut Alan Shepard is lifted up to the helicopter after he splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Mercury capsule on May 5, 1961. Alan Shepard became the first American astronaut to journey into space after a 15' 22'' suborbital flight. (NASA via AFP/Getty Images)