Astronaut Alan Shepard in Mercury Pressure Suit, 1961.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
Shepard was America's first man in space, on a suborbital hop on 5 May 1961. This was the first manned launch of the Mercury spacecraft. The mission designated MR-3, lasted 15 minutes 22 seconds and Shepard was weightless for 5 minutes. Begun in 1958, Project Mercury was NASA's first manned spaceflight programme.