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9-12 > Astronomy/Space Science

Earth and Beyond

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Answers for “A Tribute to Alan B. Shepard, Jr.”
What was Shepard’s Mercury flight like? Why was it such an accomplishment?
The flight ofFreedom 7lasted only 15 minutes. It followed a ballistic trajectory from Cape Canaveral, reached a height of 116 statute miles, and touched down about 300 statute miles downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. The top speed during the flight on reentry was 5,134 miles per hour, with a maximum acceleration of 11 times the force of Earth’s gravity. The accomplishment demonstrated that the United States could successfully launch a human being into space and recover him.

Who were the other original Mercury astronauts (hint: there were seven total)?
The “Mercury Seven” were Deke Slayton, Walter M. Schirra, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, John H. Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, and Alan B. Shepard, Jr.

What grounded Alan B. Shepard? How was he able to overcome this setback?
Meuniere’s syndrome—an inner ear problem—grounded Shepard for several years following his Mercury flight, but he underwent experimental surgery that cured the problem and went to the Moon as commander on Apollo 14.

How did space travel change between the Mercury and Apollo space programs?
Mercury astronauts flew solo in an Atlas Redstone rocket—a modified missile. The suit was primitive, and the capsule was incredibly cramped. During the Apollo missions, astronauts sat three to a capsule—which stood atop a much larger multistage rocket. Suits were more comfortable, had several layers of insulation, and could be removed during flight. Apollo vehicles included a detachable lunar module. Note: There were many more improvements.