The first American cosmonaut Alan Shepard. Mission "Mercury-Redstone-3" on May 5, 1961

For many, the most well-known personalities inspace exploration are Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong. The representative of the Soviet Union flew for the first time into space and returned alive, and the United States landed on the moon.

However, Armstrong is not the first American cosmonaut. They consider a completely different person. About his biography, career and mission will be discussed in the article.

Preparation for the selection of astronauts

first American cosmonaut

It's no secret that both powers were the maincompetitors in the matter of space exploration. In the US, this problem was dealt with at the Langley Research Center in Virginia. However, in addition to designing and putting into operation the spacecraft, it was necessary to form a detachment of astronauts.

Preparation for this began in November 1958. The first detachment of US astronauts was to be selected in several stages. At first, they wanted to select one hundred and fifty candidates, gradually eliminating from this group of people based on the results of medical and psychological tests, as well as nine-month training. As a result of the selection, there were six astronauts to remain.

A significant interference in the search for candidates was the decision of President Dwight Eisenhower, who saw the best candidates only among test pilots. From their number and began to choose.

The choice of astronauts

By the beginning of 1959, selection had begun. Experts were guided by the following criteria:

  • height - up to 180 cm;
  • ideal physical condition;
  • age - up to forty years;
  • education - technical (bachelor);
  • special education - test pilot;
  • flight experience - not less than one and a half thousand hours.

According to these criteria, NASA representatives selected 110applicants, of them a group of 36 people was selected for further tests. 32 candidates passed the thorough medical and psychological survey. One of them was eliminated, so 31 pilots arrived at the Research Center. The further choice was very difficult. In the end, experts selected for the flight is not six, but seven people.

The pilots were called astronauts, and their names were officially announced on April 9, 1959. Among them was the first American cosmonaut.

The first seven with Alan Shepard

Alan Shepard

All astronauts were family men with engineering education, in excellent physical shape. Their age ranged from 32 to 37 years.

List of the first seven with military rank:

  • John Glenn is a lieutenant colonel.
  • Gordon Cooper, Virgil Grissom, Donald Slayton - captains.
  • Alan Shepard, Walter Shirra - senior lieutenants.
  • Scott Carpenter is a lieutenant.

There was also one among them who will be awarded the title"the first American cosmonaut." The men began to prepare for the flight first on the basis of the Research Center in Virginia, then - in Houston (Texas). Each representative of the Seven had their own specialization. The main character of the article was trained in work in the systems of rescue and tracking.

Education Shepard

Alan was born on 18.11.1923 in the city of Derry. At the age of 36, he became one of seven astronauts chosen by NASA to fly into space. In many respects, this was facilitated by his education.

The future astronaut Alan Shepard once graduated from the Admiral Farragut Academy College, the Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree, naval college.

Career of the pilot

After receiving a bachelor's degree, Alan Shepard became an officer of the Navy. At this time, the Second World War continued, so he was assigned to a destroyer and sent to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1947, he received the title of pilot and wassent to serve in the fighter squadron. In 1950, the pilot entered the school of testers. After completing the training, he took part in flight tests, including experiments to develop a system of refueling in the air. Within five months, the future cosmonaut was an instructor for test pilots.

Before becoming an astronaut, Shepard flew more than 8,000 hours, of which 3,700 were conducted on jet aircraft.

Astronaut career

first detachment of US astronauts

The first American astronaut was in the sevencandidates who were chosen by NASA in 1959. They were preparing for the Mercury program. His professionalism and high personal qualities allowed him to be the first representative of the United States to reach the cosmos and fly to the moon.

He made his first flight in 1961. The journey was short-lived, but necessary for the United States of America. The ship-capsule was called "Freedom-7".

Later, the astronaut was trained as a backup of G. Cooper on the mission of Atlas-9. In 1963 he was supposed to fly to Atlas-10. The flight was supposed to be held for three days, but it was canceled. After that, the astronaut was chosen as the first pilot on the ship "Gemini". After starting training, he underwent a medical examination, as a result of which he discovered an ear disorder that disrupted the activity of the vestibular apparatus. Due to Meniere's illness, he was removed from flights for several years.

In order to return to the preparation for flights, Shepard had to have an operation in the ear canal. She was successful, and the astronaut returned to active work.

May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard

Being a forty-seven-year-old pilot, the oldest onethe moment NASA astronaut, Alan made his second in life flight into space. He was appointed commander of Apollo 14. He made the third successful US expedition to the moon. It happened in the period from January 31 to February 9, 1971.

"Mercury Redstone" with Alan Shepard

the flight of Alan Shepard

According to the "Mercury" program, the flight of Alan Shepard becamethe first successful launch of a manned spacecraft. It was withdrawn by the carrier rocket Redstone-3. The capsule was able to climb to a height of 186 km and descended into the waters of the Atlantic range of the United States. This place was at a distance of 486 km from the initial start point.

In contrast to the flight of Yuri Gagarin, whomanaged to fly around the Earth in orbit, May 5, 1961 Alan Shepard only reached the cosmos, after spending a little more than fifteen minutes in flight. He became the second person in the world who reached such heights.

Objectives of flight

astronaut Alan Shepard

The main task of the USA was to get ahead in the developmentspace, other countries, especially the USSR. The program "Mercury" assumed the fulfillment of certain goals. Successful was the launch of the system "Mercury-Redstone-3", which was Shepard.

The main objectives of the flight:

  • Getting the experience of manned spacecraft during the launch, active flight, the state of weightlessness, as well as entering the atmosphere and landing.
  • Evaluation of the pilot's capabilities in the management of the spacecraft, voice communication during the flight.
  • The study of man's reaction to flight in space, primarily physiological.
  • The possibility of landing an astronaut and a ship.

The life of an astronaut after his career

At the end of his flight career, Alan Shepard,whose biography is considered in the article, was engaged in public activities. In 1971, he became a delegate to the UN Assembly. At the same time he received his doctorate degrees in natural and humanitarian sciences.

At the end of the twentieth century, together with two journalists, the famous astronaut published the book "Flight to the Moon". On her motives immediately created a television series.

Alan Shepard biography

Shepard died on 21.07.1998 at the age of seventy-five. The cause of death was a prolonged illness - leukemia. Five weeks later, his wife Louise also died. Their bodies were cremated, and the ashes scattered over the sea.

Interesting facts about the astronaut and his flight

The project, in which Alan was involved, wascalled "Mercury". The name was chosen in honor of the ancient Roman mythological creature, who was the messenger of the gods and the patron of trade. In Washington, the title of the project was approved on December 10, 1958.

Selected for space flight applicantswas called astronauts. The name was chosen by analogy with the Argonauts, who in ancient Greek mythology sailed for the Golden Fleece, and aeronauts, that is, aeronauts.

Before the flight, Alan was prescribed a strict diet. It was prepared by a personal cook. For example, breakfast consisted of orange juice, semolina, eggs, strawberry jam, coffee with sugar. The list of dishes changed. The cook cooked one portion for the cosmonaut, and the second kept the day in the refrigerator in case there was a problem with the digestive tract.

The day before the flight, the coffee from the menu was removed due to its diuretic and exciting effect.

Before launching, the astronaut said to himself: "Do not fuck up, Shepard." The media supplemented it a little by mentioning the words about God. Since that time, many pilots have said a similar "prayer".


The pilot was accommodated in the ship-capsule at 5 o'clock 15minutes, but the flight took place only after two and a half hours. The reasons for the postponement were technical hitching and cloudiness, which would not make good pictures of the Earth from space. The ship started at 9:34. It was watched by 45 million viewers in the United States of America.

The first attempts to reach the cosmos were not alwayssuccessful. It is very difficult to envisage all the nuances. So, NASA, selecting the most worthy candidates for the flight, did not take into account their usual physiological needs. That is, there was no way to manage the need in the spacecraft. Because of this, Shepard had to do it in a suit right during the flight.

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