Relive Alan Shepard's Harrowing Trip to Space With a View From His Cockpit
53 years ago today, Alan Shepard became the second human to visit space. The first person in space, Russian Yuri Gagarin, completed an orbit of the Earth almost a month before Shepard's 15-minute voyage. Gagarin's craft was fully automated, but Shepard had some control over the Freedom 7, and this agency led to what is known amongst astronauts as "Shepard's Prayer"—before blast-off, he apparently said some version of, "Please, dear God, don't let me f*ck up."
He didn't, and the trip—launch-to-orbit-to-splashdown—can be seen below, complete with annotations and in-vessel camera view:
After his famous voyage, Shepard was diagnosed with Ménière's disease, an inner-ear ailment that affects balance and directional sense. This obviously presents a problem for someone piloting a spaceship, and he was grounded for the five years that followed.
After undergoing experimental surgery to treat the problem, he was cleared for extra-terrestrial activities and commanded the Apollo 14 mission to the moon in 1971. Shepard became the fifth man to walk on the moon and, perhaps most notably, the first person to play golf on another planet:
In less than ten years, Alan Shepard went from a 15-minute trip in a rocket-boosted sardine can to living on the moon for a two-day period and managing to fit in some golf. Not bad.