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Rocket man

By Lisa Rummler

September 2009- On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, flying in the Freedom 7 as part of the Mercury space program. His spacecraft was 2 m long and 1.9 m in diameter, and his suborbital flight lasted less than 16 minutes.

Needless to say, human space flight has come a long way since then. NASA's spacecraft have also evolved over the years, becoming larger and more cutting-edge--but always requiring forming and fabrication technology.

The following are some of the spacecraft used in NASA's 48 years of human space flights:

 

  • Freedom 7 (for the initial Mercury mission); first launched May 5, 1961
  • Gemini-Titan III (for the first manned Gemini flight, lasted almost five hours); first launched March 23, 1965
  • Apollo 11 (for the mission that took man to the moon); first launched July 16, 1969

 

Space shuttles

  • Columbia (spacecraft used in first shuttle mission); first launched April 12, 1981
  • Challenger (brought the first American woman, Sally Ride, into space); first launched April 4, 1983
  • Discovery (deployed Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990); first launched Aug. 30, 1984
  • Atlantis (flew the first seven missions to dock with Mir, the Russian space station); first launched Oct. 3, 1985
  • Endeavour (named through a national competition involving elementary and high school students); first launched May 7, 1992
  • Orion (NASA's current project); to be launched in 2015

FFJ

 

Read about NASA's current Orion space crew module project in the October issue of FFJournal.

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