1961-05-05 USA Mercury MR-3

Project Mercury was the first U.S. program for human spaceflight. It ran from 1959 through 1963, with the objectives of putting a manned spacecraft in orbit around the Earth, investigate man's ability to function in space, and to recover both man and spacecraft safely on return to Earth.

Photo: A sketch showing cross-section of the Mercury spacecraft.
Photo: Astronaut Alan Shepard (right) and Rep. Perkins Bass (left). Alan Shepard's flight on May 2, 1961, was postponed due to bad weather.
On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he rode his Mercury spacecraft, Freedom 7, to perform a sub-orbital flight mission known as Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3). Shepard's 15-minutes flight did not orbit Earth; it simply went up and down, attained an altitude of just over 187 km.

Photo: Electrodes, attached to Alan Shepard, record his body functions during the space flight.
Space Craft Swanson cover, only 300 were produced and individually numbered at the back of the cover. This is a limited edition of the Project Mercury commemorative Space Craft cover with a Carl Swanson cachet honoring Freedom 7 and astronaut Alan Shepard as the first US astronaut in space. Postmarked at Patrick Air Force Base, May 5, 1961, and signed in black ink, "Alan Shepard, MR3 Pilot". This cover is number 30 of 300 (stated on the reverse). - RRAuction
Photo: Alan Shepard suited up in his space suit, preparing for the first American ride in space, May 5, 1961.
Shepard's 15 minutes flight traveled more than 300 miles from Cape Canaveral, Florida, landed in the Atlantic Ocean near the Grand Bahamas where he was picked up by the aircraft carrier Lake Champlain.
Mercury-Redstone 3 (Freedom 7) Signed Launch Cover. A Space Craft printed cachet cover with a 7¢ Airmail stamp affixed, bearing a Patrick Air Force Base cancellation dated May 5, 1961, the day of this historic mission. It features a "Man-in-Space/ Mission of Project Mercury" illustrated cachet. Signed by Alan Shepard. From Steven R. Belasco Collection of Space Memorabilia. - Heritage Auctions
Photo: Gus Grissom looks into the periscope of the Freedom 7 spacecraft, to give Alan Shepard a look at him.
A Space Craft printed cachet cover cancelled at Port Canaveral on May 5, 1961, signed by Alan Shepard in blue ink. From the Family Collection of Astronaut Richard Gordon. - Heritage Auction
A launch day Goldcraft cachet cover honoring the path of Shepard's historic flight aboard the Freedom 7, postmarked May 5, 1961, and signed by Alan Shepard in blue ballpoint. - RRAuction
Photo: Alan Shepard's Mercury capsule, Freedom 7, lowered onto the deck of USS Lake Champlain by the recovery helicopters.
Photo: Alan Shepard retrieves his helmet from the MR-3 capsule.
Photo: "America's first space man, Alan Shepard, jr., looked back into his space capsule aboard the carrier Lake Champlain. He and the capsule were lifted from the Atlantic Friday after the flight. AP Wirephoto. May 5, 1961."
USS Lake Champlain was the prime recovery ship for America's first manned space flight. The "U.S.S. Lake Champlain" is a rare postmark variation. Signed by Alan Shepard and NASA Public Affairs Officer Alfred P. Alibrando.
Another rare "U.S.S. Lake Champlain" postmark variation cover sent by crew on the ship. The address on the cover is partially erased.
Photo: Alan Shepard waved to crew members as he was leaving USS Champlain for Grand Bahamas.
A Goldcraft cachet cover with printed text "SHEPARD'S FLIGHT ENDS" cancelled at Grand Bahamas on May 5, 1961.
Photo: Alan Shepard at Grand Bahamas, undergoing medical tests after his historic flight.
Photo: Alan Shepard and his wife waving to crowds during a parade on May 8, 1961.