[ Alan ]


One of the Original 7, Alan Shepard was the first American Astronaut to make it to Outer Space.

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Alan Shepard

MAY 5, 1961 — FREEDOM 7
Three years after a Russian satellite named Sputnik flew over America, The United States finally got in the race. Alan Shepard became the first American to ride a rocket into outer space, and the world now wondered who, between The United States and The Soviet Union, would be first to reach the moon.

“My Fellow Astronauts”
Alex Skolnick
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1959 The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is created, and the Original 7 Mercury Astronauts are selected:
Alan Shepard
John Glenn
Deke Slayton
Scott Carpenter
Gus Grissom
Wally Schirra
Gordon Cooper
NASA invites test pilots, from around the United States Armed Services to join the newest generation of explorers. Although Alan Shepard was on the list, his invitation was misplaced and he didn’t officially receive an offer to join. Regardless, he was selected to be one of the first seven American Astronauts.  
Known as the Mercury 7, the group included John Glenn, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Donald “Deke” Slayton, Malcolm “Scott” Carpenter, Walter “Wally” Schirra and Gordon Cooper. From this prestigious group of highly trained fliers, Shepard was selected to pilot the first flight into space, with Glenn as his backup.
The stakes were raised (April 15, 1961) when the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person to orbit the Earth.

Some Russian thing called “Sputnik” flew by overhead, and the race to put a man on the moon was on.

Flight To Be Free The Soviets beat the Americans by less than a month. Shepard’s launch was initially scheduled for May 2, but was rescheduled twice because of bad weather.

May 5, 1961 Freedom 7 lifts off, carrying Shepard to an altitude of 116 miles (187 kilometers) for a 15-minute suborbital flight. Because of the placement of the porthole windows, the first American in space was unable to catch a glimpse of the stars, and he was strapped in too tight to experience weightlessness. Also, a filter left on the periscope window made the Earth appear black and white.

Although The Soviets had reached the historic milestone first, and Gagarin had achieved a longer orbital flight, Shepard’s suborbital flight still made a significant worldwide impact. Unlike with Gagarin, Shepard’s launch, flight, and splashdown were watched on live television by millions of people. While Gagarin’s name was publicized, many of the details of his flight were kept confidential for years, including the fact he parachuted to Earth, rather than landing his spacecraft. Shepard was also ceremonially awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, by president John F. Kennedy.

The Bridge 

“Fly Me To The Moon”
Allan Harris
((( allan harris )))


Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Right Stuff,” is one of the best told stories about America’s Space Program. Focusing on the Mercury Program, and the Original 7 Astronauts, the first Americans to reach outer space.

Robert Rauschenberg
American, 1925–2008
Retroactive I, 1964
Oil and silkscreen ink on canvas; 84 x 60″
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Gift of Susan Morse Hilles, 1964.30

Inspiration of War
1947 — The Muroc Army Air Field in California has test pilots fly high-speed aircraft such as the rocket-powered Bell X-1, but some are killed as a result. After another pilot, Slick Goodlin, demands $150,000 (equivalent to $1,683,000 in 2018) to attempt to break the sound barrier, war hero Captain Chuck Yeager receives the chance to fly the X-1. While on a horseback ride with his wife Glennis, Yeager collides with a tree branch and breaks his ribs, which inhibits him from leaning over and locking the door to the X-1. Worried that he might not fly the mission, Yeager confides in friend and fellow pilot Jack Ridley. Ridley cuts off part of a broomstick and tells Yeager to use it as a lever to help seal the hatch to the X-1, and Yeager becomes the first person to fly at supersonic speed, defeating the “demon in the sky.”

Six years later, Muroc, now Edwards Air Force Base, still attracts the best test pilots. Yeager (now a major) and friendly rival Scott Crossfield repeatedly break the other’s speed records. They often visit the Happy Bottom Riding Club run by Pancho Barnes, who classifies the pilots at Edwards as either “prime” (such as Yeager and Crossfield) that fly the best equipment or newer “pudknockers” who only dream about it.

Gordon “Gordo” Cooper, Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Donald “Deke” Slayton, captains of the United States Air Force, are among the “pudknockers” who hope to also prove that they have “the Right Stuff.”

“No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”

Officials understand, that rather than keep their test program secrect, it would be better for funding if they promoted the most exciting new program.

Cooper’s wife, Trudy, and other wives are afraid of becoming widows, but cannot change their husbands’ ambitions and desire for success and fame.

1957 — The Russian satellite Sputnik alarms the United States. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson and military leaders demand that NASA help America defeat the Russians in what was called the Space Race.

The search for the first Americans in space excludes Yeager because he lacks a college degree.

Robert Rauschenberg

1960 The Original Seven
Mercury Seven Astronauts
John Glenn
Alan Shepard
Wally Schirra
Scott Carpenter
Gordon “Gordo” Cooper
Virgil “Gus” Grissom
Donald “Deke” Slayton

April 12, 1961 — Russian Yuri Gagarin, having been the First Man In Space, inspires an almost humiliated United States of America.

The Original Seven NASA Astronauts couldn’t have been more motivated to get in the “Space Race,” and beat the Russians to The Moon.

May 5, 1961Alan Shepard , riding a Redstone 3 rocket, is the First “American” to leave the Earth’s atmosphere … to reach outer space. Shepard’s was a 15-minute, sub-orbital flight.

February 20, 1962John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth (Mercury/Atlas 6). After surviving a fiery re-entry with a dangerously loose heat shield on his capsule, Glenn splashed down a celebrity. After a ticker-tape parade (5th Ave. NYC), he, his fellow astronauts, and their families became the center of pop culture attention, including a Texas-size celebration in the Sam Houston Coliseum to announce the opening of the Manned Space Center in Houston.

Although test pilots at Edwards mock the Original 7 Mercury Astronauts as“spam in a can,”they do recognize that they are no longer the fastest men on Earth. “it takes a special kind of man to volunteer for a suicide mission” Yeager said, “especially when it’s on national TV.”
Yeager attempts to set a new altitude record in a brand newLockheed NF-104A, that would take him to the edge of space. As he climbed to where he could see out of the Earth’s atmosphere, the 104A’s engine stalled, and Yeager was seriously burned when he had to eject as the plane plumeted toward the desert floor. Surviving the fall, Yeager gathered up his spent parachute before walking himself to an approaching ambulance, proving that, although never making it to space, he no doubt always had The Right Stuff.
On May 15, 1963, Cooper has a successful launch (Mercury/Atlas 9) ending the Mercury program. As the last American to fly into space alone, he “went higher, farther, and faster than any other American … for a brief moment, “Gordo” Cooper became the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen.”
(3 Days of Peace & Music)

As the war in Vietnam raged hotter than ever, Easy Rider was the Hollywood movie that came to define the time America escaped the most violent and angry decade, but long before the careless sex, drugs, and rock n roll of the 1970s.

Jimi Hendrix laid down a rock n roll foundation that electric guitarist are still building upon today, 50 years later … and he did it mostly between 1967 and 1970, the year he died