Reach for the Stars!
On May 5, 1961, Navy Commander Alan Shepard, Jr. was launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule. He became the first American in space and the the first astronaut to safely return to Earth inside his vehicle. Less than one month prior, the Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin into space.
Shepard’s flight was suborbital and lasted only about fifteen minutes, during which he demonstrated that he was able to maneuver his craft. He landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean, where he was retrieved by the aircraft carrier Lake Champlain. For this flight, he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal by President John F. Kennedy.
Shepard’s career with NASA continued over the next 13 years and included another trip into space. On February 5, 1971, he was the fifth astronaut to walk on the moon as the Commander of the crew of Apollo 14. He is most well known for hitting two golf balls from the moon.