Once upon a time there was a six year old boy. He was, like many youngsters his age, filled with a sense of wonder about the world around him, specifically about those which left contrails across his Midwestern sky. If it had wings, engines, and altitude it demanded and got his immediate attention.
One evening, after dinner, he asked his parents if he could stay home from school the following day. There was something very special happening that day, and he just had to be home in order to watch as the events unfolded on television. Surprisingly, his parents granted his request.
May 5th, 1961 arrived crisp and clear. The young man finished his breakfast, and parked himself in front of the old Zenith black and white in the living room, as America officially entered the “space race”, sending Alan B. Shepard, Jr. (RADM, USN, Ret. briefly into the black void of space.
On May 5, 1961, only 23 days after Yuri A. Gagarin of the Soviet Union became the first man in space, Shepard was launched at 9:34am EST aboard the spacecraft he named Freedom 7 (MR-7) powered by a Redstone booster (MR-3). He was launched suborbitally to an altitude of over 116 miles, 303 statute miles down range from Cape Canaveral. His 15 minute 28 second flight achieved a velocity of 5,134 miles per hour and pulled a maximum of 11G’s. Freedom 7 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean where the aircraft carrier Lake Champlain awaited his arrival. The capsule came through the entire flight in such excellent shape that the engineers who went over it with a fine-tooth comb decided that it could easily be used again. The doctors also assessed that the commander was in excellent shape, physically and psychologically and “…could be used again too.”
Being in the Midwest, it was 8:37 his time. But the event left an impression everlasting on the boy. And subsequent flights into space would find him either in front of a television or radio at the earliest opportunity.
But this day in May, this first push beyond, and far above, the sweet green hills of earth, would be the one most fondly remembered. Not only because of the event itself, but because the youngster also happened to be celebrating his 6th birthday on that day. What better present could one get on “their day”, then to witness history in the making.
This recapturing of days gone by, came back into focus due to this post over at “the Rott”, and the link provided there. Has 40 years gone by already? And so very quickly at that. We had a much stronger sense of purpose back then (or so it would seem-looking back), than we do now. There seemed to be nothing we as a nation, as a untied peoples, we couldn’t accomplish. No challenge we couldn’t face and overcome. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case today. We half step, we abdicate, we splinter and factionalise.
Perhaps if we look at what was attempted and successfully completed some 40 years ago, we can re ignite the spirit, and once again square our shoulders, hold our heads high, and unflinchingly reach for the stars.
big h/t to Mrs. M over at the Rott