“It’s been a long way, but we’re here.” - NASA Astronaut Alan Shepard
While NASA has been sending American astronauts into space for over half a century, it all began with one - Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. An American test pilot, Shepard was selected as one of the first seven astronauts by the then newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Coined the ‘Mercury 7’, NASA’s first batch of carefully selected and trained individuals were to pilot the manned spaceflights of the Mercury program. In January 1961, Alan Shepard was selected from this group to pilot the Freedom 7 mission, which would make him not only the first American in space, but also would have made him the first human to reach this threshold.
Unfortunately, due to delays by unplanned preparatory work, the flight was postponed nearly seven months after the initial planned date. In this time, more specifically less than a month prior to Shepard’s flight, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin would leapfrog Shepard to become the first person in space and to orbit the Earth. On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 mission and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space.
Following his involvement with Mercury and Gemini, Shepard would command America’s third successful lunar landing mission - Apollo 14. The first mission to successfully broadcast color television pictures from the surface of the Moon, Shepard piloted the Lunar Module Antares to the most accurate landing of the entire Apollo program.
This photo of Earth was captured using the 70mm Earth-Sky Camera mounted on the spacecraft.