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

A Brave New World


NASA's first manned suborbital spaceflight carried astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., in the Freedom 7 capsule out of Earth's atmosphere and into space atop the MercuryRedstone 3 rocket.

Cloudy Earth


During the suborbital spaceflight, observations of Earth and its clouds were captured.

The Edge of the World


Views of Earth captured from the MercuryRedstone 3 suborbital mission reveal stunning beauty. On the lower right side of the image a gleam from the capsule window is visible.

Mission Success


A helicopter from the USS Lake Champlain retrieved astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., pilot of the MercuryRedstone 3 suborbital spaceflight after splashdown on May 5, 1961 in the western Atlantic Ocean. Within 11 minutes of splashdown, Shepard and the Freedom 7 capsule, in the bottom right of the image, were flown to the recovery ship. During the suborbital mission, the craft reached a top speed of 5,180 miles per hour and an altitude of 116.5 miles. The mission took 15 minutes, 22 seconds to complete.

Warm Welcome


Aboard the U.S. Navy Carrier Champlain, crew members cheer as helicopters bring the Freedom 7 capsule and astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., in from sea after NASA's successful first manned suborbital flight.

Awe and Pride


On the USS Lake Champlain, crew members crowd together to watch as NASA's first Project Mercury pilot to fly a suborbital flight, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., is flown to the recovery ship along with the Freedom 7 capsule.

Inspection Complete


After a postflight inspection, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., walks away from the Freedom 7 capsule. Shepard, in the Freedom 7, recently completed the first manned space mission for the United States, orbiting the Earth for just over 15 minutes.



On May 8, 1961, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. (center), waves to crowds outside the U.S. Caption building with his wife Louise. Shepard briefed Congress regarding his 15 minute suborbital mission, the first U.S. manned spaceflight.

Making History


Three days after making history on NASA's successful first manned suborbital mission, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., received NASA's Distinguished Service Medal Award in a Rose Garden ceremony with President John F. Kennedy. In the background, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, NASA Administrator James E. Webb and several NASA astronauts watch.

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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.