This Day In Boomer History
FIRST AMERICAN IN SPACE
May 5, 1961
It's been 49 years since Alan Shepard boarded the Mercury spacecraft Freedom 7 and performed a suborbital flight, thus securing his spot in the history books as the first American in space. You can find footage of the event here.
Looking back, the voyage may seem like just a small blip - just 15 minutes, 28 seconds long, covering some 302 miles. But that blip was echoed by the rapid heartbeats of Americans chomping at the bit to become a viable part of the space race. The goal, of course, was the moon and bragging rights over the Russians (who beat us into space, but came up short in that moon race).
Yes, the moon was our goal, but we were reaching for the stars.
Now, our feet are firmly planted on earth. Sure, there are still the occasional space exploration missions, but we no longer gather around the television and watch, holding our breath in wonder, at the journey through that new frontier. We barely pay attention now, unless something tragic happens.
I can understand the change, of course. Money is too tight to spend too much on these missions. Still, for a brief shining moment, we had a national goal we could all agree on. We've grown up, but every now and then I still find myself reaching for the stars.