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Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., in his silver pressure suit with the helmet visor closed, prepares for his Mercury Redstone 3 launch on May 5, 1961. Shepard's Freedom 7 Mercury capsule lifted off at 9:34 a.m. from Launch Complex 5 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and flew a suborbital trajectory lasting 15 minutes and 22 seconds. He became the first American to fly into space.
During the rocket's acceleration, Shepard was subjected to 6.3 g, or 6.3 times his normal weight, just before shut down of the Redstone engine, two minutes and 22 seconds after liftoff. Soon after, America's first space traveler got his first view of the Earth. "What a beautiful view," Shepard said. His spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, 302 miles from Cape Canaveral, where he and Freedom 7 were recovered by helicopter and transported to the awaiting aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain.