Cover for LIFE magazine "'AOK!' THE U.S. IS IN SPACE", May 12, 1961.

LIFE: “‘AOK!’ THE U.S. IS IN SPACE”, May 12, 1961, cover.

As NASA marks the 50th anniversary of American human spaceflight, the agency’s chief, Charles Bolden, reflected on the significance of astronaut Alan Shepard’s historic Freedom 7 mission.
On May 5, 1961, Shepard became the first American in space when his capsule, launched on a Redstone rocket, traveled a suborbital trajectory for 15 minutes before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.
“50 years ago today, Alan Shepard rocketed into space on America’s first manned space mission. That flight set our nation on a path of exploration and discovery that continues to this day.
“May 5, 1961, was a good day. When Alan Shepard launched toward the stars that day, no American had ever done so, and the world waited on pins and needles praying for a good outcome. The flight was a great success, and on the strength of Shepard’s accomplishment, NASA built the leadership role in human spaceflight that we have held ever since. (SPACE.com: “NASA Chief’s View On 50 Years of American Spaceflight”, May 5th, 2011)

From SPACE.com, see also: “FAQ: Alan Shepard’s Historic Flight as First American in Space”, May 4th, 2011.
The following infographic was also retrieved from SPACE.com : “America’s First Spaceship: Project Mercury (Infographic)” (inforgraphic by Karl Tate, SPACE.com Infographics Artist, May 3rd, 2011).

Project Mercury Infographic prepared by SPACE.com

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