U.S. Space & Rocket Center celebrates 60 years of space exploration

Published: May. 6, 2021 at 11:37 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - May 5th marks a historic date in American Space Exploration.

It was on this day back in 1961 that Alan Shepard became the first American in Space. Shepard made a sub-orbital flight aboard his Mercury capsule named Freedom 7.

While he did not orbit the earth, he flew 116 miles high, then came back down. The flight lasted just over 15 minutes.

Based on Shephard’s brief flight, then-President John F. Kennedy committed the U.S. to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center commemorated the 60th anniversary Wednesday.

Sixty years ago, right here in Huntsville, rockets were developed that put the first U.S. satellite into orbit and sent men to the moon.

Shepard’s historic spaceflight took place on the Mercury Redstone rocket. Shepard’s launch happened just 23 days after the Russians put Yuri Gagarin into space on April 12, 1961. Thanks to the work that was happening in Huntsville, America was ready to respond with its own flight!

A group of Huntsville astronauts, including Shephard, Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, John Glenn and more, had to spend hours training in the Mercury Project simulator in order to go to space. This helped the astronauts learn how to control the vehicle and how to react if something went wrong.

CEO of the Space and Rocket Center, Dr. Kimberly Robinson says she believes Huntsville is a great place for all space activity.

Robinson says she hopes to see NASA’s Space Launch System take off this year, the most powerful rocket to ever be built that will take us even deeper into space.

Copyright 2021 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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