'It's Been A Long Way': Remembering the Return of the Rookie, 50 Years On

“A long way, but we’re here,” were Shepard’s figuratively and literally appropriate words when he became the fifth man to set foot on the Moon. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty years ago, as the United States and the world stood on the cusp of launching the first humans to the surface of another world, a […]

“What a Beautiful View”: Remembering America’s First Man in Space, OTD in 1961

Al Shepard is hoisted aboard the helicopter, deftly piloted by Wayne Koons, after completing his 15-minute suborbital flight. The patch of fluorescent green marker dye in the water around Freedom 7 is particularly obvious. Photo Credit: NASA

In the half-hour between 9:30 and 10 a.m. EDT on this day in 1961, the United States […]

‘Beautiful View’: Remembering America’s First Manned Mission to Space, 57 Years Ago This Week

On the deck of the U.S.S. Lake Champlain, Alan Shepard checks out the interior of Freedom 7 – the vehicle which had protected him from the rigours of a launch and high-G acceleration, had kept him alive and well in the most hostile environment ever encountered by humanity and sustained him throughout a […]

'What a Beautiful View': 55 Years Since Freedom 7 Began America's Adventure in Space (Part 2)

Shepard’s 15-minute flight offered him a few minutes of weightlessness and a few minutes to glimpse the grandeur of Earth from space. He was only the second human being to leave the Home Planet. Photo Credit: NASA

In the half-hour between 9:30 and 10 a.m. EDT on 5 May 1961, the United States […]

'Man, I Gotta Pee': 55 Years Since Freedom 7 Began America's Adventure in Space (Part 1)

Alan Shepard (left) and John Glenn were assigned as prime and backup pilots for America’s first mission into space. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty-five years ago, in the early hours of 5 May 1961, America prepared to launch its first man into space. Navy Cmdr. Alan Shepard would fly a suborbital flight—rising from Pad […]

'We Had 'Em By the Short Hairs': How the United States Lost the Race for a Man in Space (Part 2)

In early 1961, the Mercury Seven were ready to begin the United States’ first missions into space. However, the need to conduct a final unpiloted Mercury-Redstone mission caused America to lose the race to beat the Soviet Union into space. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty-five years ago, next week, on 24 March 1961, the […]

Timid Doctors and Timid Germans: How the United States Lost the Race for a Man in Space (Part 1)

One of the earliest rockets to be launched from Cape Canaveral was the Army’s Redstone missile, which later evolved into the vehicle seen here delivering America’s first man into space. Photo Credit: NASA

More than five decades have now passed since one of the most unfortunate episodes in human spaceflight history. In late […]

'Familiar to Millions of Americans': 45 Years Since Apollo 14 (Part 4)

Bathed by the intense lunar sunlight, Antares sits on the undulating plain of Fra Mauro in February 1971. Photo Credit: NASA

For those of us born within the last four decades, the notion of looking up at the Moon and knowing that fellow human beings are living and working there has been as […]

'It's Been A Long Way': 45 Years Since Apollo 14 (Part 3)

The desolation of the Fra Mauro site and the tracks of the Mobile Equipment Transporter (MET), as captured by one of the Apollo 14 astronauts. Photo Credit: NASA

Forty-five years ago, last week, the sixth team of Apollo lunar explorers—and only the third to accomplish a landing on the Moon’s dusty surface—headed back […]

'Fat as a Goose': 45 Years Since Apollo 14 (Part 2)

Al Shepard (foreground) and Ed Mitchell, pictured in the Lunar Module (LM) simulator during training. Photo Credit: NASA

A few hours after leaving Earth on 31 January 1971—45 years ago, this week—Apollo 14 seemed a charmed mission-in-progress, providing a stark contrast with its immediate predecessor, the ill-fated Apollo 13. As outlined in yesterday’s […]