12 Rare Images That Capture The Past In All Its Glory

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Alan Shepard returning from space in the Freedom 7 capsule, after the first U.S. human spaceflight that lasted over 15 min. on May 5, 1961.

It was May 5, 1961, at 9:34 a.m. EST when astronaut Alan Shepard embarked on a successful, 15-minute suborbital flight. He slid on into the snug Mercury capsule, “Freedom 7,” and took off from Launch Complex 5 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

About a minute and a half into the flight, he experienced some vibration as the craft pierced the area of peak aerodynamic pressure, but it was a smooth ride from there on out. Shepard enjoyed an amazing view once the rocket separated from the Mercury spacecraft. It was a short flight, but it was still enough to boost spirits throughout the United States at a time when faith in a viable space program wa faltering.

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