May 5, 1961: Al Shepard and Freedom 7

Astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom wishes Alan B. Shepard a safe flight just before insertion into the Freedom 7 spacecraft mated on the Redstone rocket.

Launch of Freedom 7, the first American manned suborbital space flight. Astronaut Alan Shepard aboard, the Mercury-Redstone (MR-3) rocket is launched from Pad 5.Astronaut Al Shepard, above with Gus Grissom, made history 55 years ago today as he launched in Freedom 7 atop a Mercury-Redstone rocket to become the first American in space. The rocket lofted Shepard using a 78,000-pound thrust engine, less powerful than the abort engine clusters in development by Boeing and SpaceX for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program spacecraft.