The Original Seven
Bearded, with makeshift clothing, the seven original Mercury astronauts participated in U.S. Air Force survival training at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada. Pictured in this 1960 photograph are (l to r): L. Gordon Cooper, M. Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Virgil I. Grissom, Walter Schirra and Donald K. Slayton.
Launch of Mercury-Redstone
This Mercury-Redstone rocket placed the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, in suborbit on May 5, 1961.
Alan Shepard in Mercury Flight Suit
Astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, poses here in his Mercury flight suit.
Light the Candle
Astronaut Alan Shepard is hurled into space atop a Mercury-Redstone rocket. Freedom 7 was the first American manned suborbital space flight, making Shepard the first American in space
Alan Shepard Aboard Freedom 7
Alan Shepard flew in space on May 5, 1961, the first American to do so. He launched aboard a Mercury-Redstone 3 rocket named Freedom 7. The suborbital flight lasted 15 minutes.
Alan Shepard: First American in Space
NASA astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space on May 5, 1961 aboard his Mercury spacecraft Freedom 7.
Freedom 7: Alan Shepard's Mercury Flight
Navy test pilot Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space.
Gimme Five, Bro!
On May 5, 1961 Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. arrives at Grand Bahamas Island and is greeted by astronaut Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom after the first American suborbital flight.
Astronaut John Glenn Confers with Nurse Dolores B. O'Hara
Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr., pilot of the Mercury-Atlas 6 earth-orbital space mission, confers with Astronaut Nurse Dolores B. O'Hara, R.N., during MA-6 prelaunch preparations.
John Glenn Enters Friendship 7
On Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn rode the Friendship 7 capsule into space, the first time an American orbited the Earth. In this image, Glenn enters the capsule with assistance from technicians.
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Space.com is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, Space.com is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.