Mercury Redstone 3: Photos from Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 Spaceflight

Safety First


On May 5, 1961, NASA launched the Mercury Redstone 3 rocket to make Alan Shepard the first American in space on the historic Freedom 7 mission. See some amazing vintage photos from the from the historic mission here.

This Image: Wearing a pressure suit with body parachute, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Mercury Redstone 3 pilot, poses for a photo.

Preparing for a U.S First


In preparation for the first man put in space by the United States, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. sits inside the Mercury capsule on April 29, 1961, with his space suit and helmet on during a flight simulation. The Mercury capsule will be launched on top of a Redstone rocket.

Spin Test


Three NASA astronauts were chosen to be part of the Project Mercury first manned suborbital flight. One of the men, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., prepares for the flight by training in a U.S. Navy centrifuge capsule at Johnsville, Pennsylvania.

Most Important Meal


On May 5, 1961, astronauts Alan Shepard and John Glenn have breakfast before Shepard heads into the cosmos for the MercuryRedstone 3 spaceflight, NASA's first manned suborbital flight.

Easy-Going Tests


A technician completes a communications equipment test on astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr.'s helmet as he lay in a recliner in his pressure suit before the launch of the MercuryRedstone 3. Shepard was the first man in space from the United States.

Last Step Before Boarding


As launch time for the MercuryRedstone 3 flight neared, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., sits in the flight couch for a final check before being inserted into the capsule.



As astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. prepares to board the capsule for the MercuryRedstone 3 manned suborbital spaceflight, astronauts Virgil I. Grissom (left), and John H. Glenn, Jr., (center) stand by to see him off with engineer Gunter Wendt (to Glenn's left) and two unnamed technicians.

Step into the Future


In his pressure suit, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., prepares to step into the Freedom 7 capsule before the MercuryRedstone 3 mission launches.

Standing Tall


The MercuryRedstone 3, with astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., inside the Freedom 7 capsule, stands alone on the launchpad.



On May 5, 1961, NASA launched it's first manned suborbital mission from Cape Canaveral — the MercuryRedstone 3 rocket carrying astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., in the Freedom 7 capsule.

Lifting Away from Earth


The MercuryRedstone 3 spacecraft rises from its launchpad at Cape Canaveral on NASA's first manned spaceflight.

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Christine Lunsford
Producer and Contributing Writer

Christine Lunsford joined the team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.