Since 2016 reminiscent May 5 as a national Astronaut Day (National Astronaut Day) in the US to Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. (1923 – 1998), the first American in space. The following lines from the calendar of curious holidays from all over the world illuminate what this special day is about in detail and how Shepard came into space.
Why does US Astronaut Day fall on May 5th?
As already indicated at the beginning, the choice of the date for the American astronauts’ day of honor is historically justified. Specifically, the occasion relates to May 5, 1961, when Alan “Al” Bartlett Shepard Jr. (1923-1998) was the first US American to take off on a suborbital ballistic flight aboard the Mercury space capsule MR-3 from Cape Canaveral .
The NASA mission was called Mission Mercury-Redstone 3 and Shepard had given his spaceship the later known name Freedom 7. On that date, the astronaut reached an altitude of 187 kilometers and landed his spaceship safely in the Atlantic Ocean after 15 minutes and 22 seconds.
From today’s point of view, this short suborbital flight is considered a milestone in the American history of manned space travel and its importance can certainly be compared with the flight of the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961. While Gagarin’s pioneering achievement as the first person in space in the former Soviet Union was honored with Cosmonaut Day since 1962, the mission of the second man in space fell out of the public eye for a long time. Not an unusual phenomenon if you look at the runners-up in human history.
Who started National Astronaut Day?
Against this background, the US space company uniphi space agency saw the need to intervene and in 2016 – in cooperation with colleagues from the online calendar nationaldaycalendar.com – declared May 5th National Astronaut Day.
And with good reason. because, in contrast to his Russian colleague, Shepard made it into space again in 1971 as a mission commander with Apollo 14. On February 5th of this year, he was the fifth person to land on the moon. This is also noteworthy insofar as the American astronaut had already reached the age of 47 at this point, making him the oldest lunar operator in the history of manned space travel.
In this sense: Have a great astronaut day to all of you.