Friday, May 6, 2011

Fifty Years Since Freedom Seven

I'd be remiss if I didn't tip my hat to the memory of Alan Shepard's historic sub-orbital flight...

The anniversary has been written up by many people who actually remember it. I was three years old.  I became aware of the space program during the Gemini missions and came of age during Apollo.  One summer in the late 60s my Aunt Phyllis drove me to Casselton, North Dakota, to see a mock-up of the Mercury capsule.  I patiently waited my turn to sit in the capsule.  It was not roomy, even for a kid.  I had to be gently encouraged to exit when my time was up.  I went to the back of the line to wait for another turn.  Tom Wolfe did a nice job of the retelling the story of the Mercury Seven in his book The Right Stuff. The movie of the same name is worth watching again if you haven't seen it in a while,  Alan Shepard traveled to moon as the commander of Apollo 14 in 1971.  He died in 1998. 

UPDATE: Some folks never realized that the Redstone used for the two sub-orbital flights was essentially a short range battlefield missile that relied heavily on the design of the WWII German V2 rocket designed by Werner von Braun.  The Atlas rocket used in the Mercury project's orbital missions, and the Titan booster used for all the Gemini missions, were originally intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to deliver Cold War nuclear weapons.  Neat article here.