Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

July 24, 1998
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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Alan B. Shepard Jr. 1923-1998
Credit: Project Mercury, NASA

Explanation: On another Friday (May 5, 1961), at the dawn of the space age, NASA controllers "lit the candle" and sent Alan B. Shepard Jr. arcing into space atop a Redstone rocket. The picture shows the pressure-suited Shepard before the launch in his cramped space capsule dubbed "Freedom 7" . This historic flight - the first spaceflight by an American - made Shepard a national hero. Born in East Derry, New Hampshire on November 18, 1923, Shepard graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1944 and went on to train and serve as a Naval Aviator. Chosen as one of the original seven Mercury Program astronauts, he considered this first flight the greatest challenge and actively sought the assignment. Shepard's accomplishments in his career as an astronaut spanned a remarkable period in human achievement and in 1972 he walked on the moon as commander of the Apollo 14 mission. A true pioneer and intrepid explorer, Alan Shepard died Tuesday at age 74 after a lengthy illness.

Tomorrow's picture: Hawaii

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.