Category Freedom 7


Redstone design work was completed in 1952. In October, after the first models had been manufactured at Huntsville, the Chrysler Corporation was hired to build them in Detroit, Michigan. The contract was sealed on 19 June 1953, just five weeks prior to the armistice of the Korean War. The production home of the Redstone was to be a vast government – owned plant located in what was better recognized back then as the world’s automo­tive center. In fact, the agreement called for the prime contractor to build the first 12 missiles at the Redstone Arsenal. The remainder were all built by Chrysler. While the total number of Redstone missiles built varies by source, there were at least 137 and perhaps as many as 146.

The first flight test of a Redstone was at Cape Canaveral on 20 August 1953, but a fault in the inertial guidance system caused it to go awry. After it had struggled to an altitude of 24,000 feet the range safety officer detonated a package of dynamite built into the wayward rocket, blowing it to pieces before it could fall back and cause any damage on the ground. With the problem identified through radio telemetry, the fault was fixed and the second flight was successfully completed.

Test flights continued over the next five years, and many refinements were made to enhance the rocket’s already enviable reliability. From 1953 through 1958, a total of 37 were fired to test structure, engine performance, guidance and control, tracking and telemetry.

In August of 1958, a Redstone became the first American missile to participate in a nuclear test, by detonating a 3.8 megaton warhead as part of Operation Hardtack. While the Redstone’s role as a weapon delivery system was brief, it nevertheless had a major impact on America’s early space program.


Due to Shepard’s ongoing post-flight training commitments with NASA, it wasn’t until 9 June 1962 that the people of the Granite State were finally able to openly express their admiration for the famed astronaut. Proclaimed “Alan Shepard Day” by Governor Wesley Powell, the occasion was marked by a well-planned parade that began at the Shepard family home in Derry and continued through the town streets. Accompanying the official cars in the preceding motorcade were some 2,000 people, 19 bands and 20 colorful floats. The bands played and the flags fluttered amidst a profusion of bunting and paper streamers, and crowds roared their welcome at each stop as Shepard and his family waved from their open convertible. Governor Powell made it to Derry for the special day, and was obviously swept up in the excitement when he somewhat grandly overstated, “This is the greatest day in the history of the state!” The motorcade termi­nated later that day at the steps of the state Capitol in Concord.

As the parade slowly progressed along the main street of Derry, some Navy patrol planes roared overhead, buzzing the town as part of the celebration, leading Shepard to comment with a wry smile, “I understand there’s a Navy flier here who tried that once years ago, and didn’t get away with it.” [2]

At one of the stops along the circuitous route to Concord, the Shepards witnessed the dedication of a flagpole erected in his honor at Grenier Field in Manchester. He recalled for the assembled gathering that in his youth he used to sweep out hangars at the field in return for flying lessons. “This,” he said proudly, “is where my original interest and devotion to aviation had its beginnings.”

The tumultuous occasion proved a great inspiration for young David Barka. “It was then that my father and I took on a project together to build a coaster. We lived on a hill and all the kids in the neighborhood built carts to coast down the hill. Mine was in the shape of a rocket that I named Freedom 7 in honor of Shepard’s flight. That coaster sat in my folks’ basement for close to 40 years, and when my Dad passed away in 1999 I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. I brought it to the house where I then lived with my wife and three children, not knowing that in 2002 we would purchase the Shepard home. The Freedom 7 coaster is still here.”

Today, David and Debi Barka reside in the large white colonial house, custom-built in 1921 on a 4.2-acre lot at 64 East Derry Road, the former home of America’s first astronaut. “We love this house both for its beautiful traditional architecture and for its special history,” he told the author. “We have modernized it where necessary, but preserved unique features such as the door casing that marked Alan and Polly’s height as they grew, and the amazing built-in organ that Alan’s father played; he was the organist at the First Parish Church down the road.

“My wife and I treasure the special meaning that this house has in the history of our country, and especially our town, and are happy to be a small part of it.” [3]


Some of the Barka family assembled in front of their historic home. From left: Joe and his wife Nicole Barka, David Barka, Nick Barka, Debi Barka, son-in-law Mike McGivern with his and wife Anissa’s son Finnegan. (Photo: David & Debi Barka)


“There was a lot less vibration and noise rumble than I had expected,” Shepard later explained. “It was extremely smooth – a subtle, gentle, gradual rise off the ground. There was nothing rough or abrupt about it. But there was no question that I was going, either. I could see it on the instruments, hear it on the headphones, feel it all around me.” [5]

Mildly surprised by the lack of vibration, Shepard was also pleased to find that he did not have to turn his radio receiver up to full volume in order to hear incoming transmis­sions. After communications were verified, he transmitted every 30 seconds in order to maintain voice contact and report the state of the spacecraft systems to the ground.

According to Flight Director Chris Kraft, “A communication procedure had been developed between the astronaut and the control center so that if the cabin and suit pressures were not maintained, an abort was to be initiated.” This would restrict the peak altitude to 70,000 feet. “By aborting at this time (i. e., between T+l min. 16 secs. and T+1 min. 29 secs.), the time above 50,000 feet could be limited to about 60 to 70 seconds.” [6] But things proceeded smoothly.

Shepard later told Life magazine, “For the first minute, the ride continued smooth and my main job was to keep the people on the ground as relaxed and informed as I could. I reported that everything was functioning perfectly, that all the systems were working, that the g’s were mounting slightly [just] as predicted. The long hours of rehearsal had helped. It was almost as if I had been there before. It was enormously strange and exciting, but my earlier practice gave the whole thing a comfortable air of familiarity. [And] Deke’s clear transmissions in my headphones reassured me still more.” [7]

The first critical moment was 1 minute 24 seconds after liftoff, when the vehicle passed through the point of maximum dynamic pressure, known in NASA parlance as Max Q, when the aerodynamic stress reached its peak. Shepard’s head began to shake in an involuntary reaction to the vibration and his vision blurred a little.

“I was at two and a half times my normal weight. So far the flight was a piece of cake,” Shepard later stated. “I was through the smoothest part of powered ascent, and now came the rutted road, the barrier I had to cross before leaving the atmosphere behind. [The] Redstone was hammering at shock waves gathering stubbornly before its passage, slicing from below the speed of sound through the barrier to supersonic [heading] straight up. Now I was in Max Q, the zone of maximum dynamic pressure where the forces of flight and ascent challenged the booster rocket. My helmet slammed against the contour couch. Eighteen inches before me the instrument panel


Climbing ever higher into the blue sky, Shepard prepares himself for the unsettling onset of maximum dynamic pressure, known as Max Q. (Photo: NASA)


became a blur, almost impossible to read. One thousand pounds of pressure for every square foot of Freedom 7 was trying to crack the capsule. I started to call Deke, but changed my mind. A garbled transmission at this point could send Mercury Control into a flap. It might even trigger an abort. And then the Redstone slipped through the hammering blows into smoothness. Out of Max Q, I keyed the mike.

“‘Okay, it’s a lot smoother now. A lot smoother.’

“‘Roger,’ said Deke.” [8]

The shutdown of the booster came at T+2 minutes 22 seconds at an acceleration of 6.2 g’s, which meant in effect that Shepard now weighed 1,000 pounds. He was find­ing it difficult to talk as the g-forces constricted his throat and vocal cords. At the same time, a signal was transmitted to the spacecraft for its escape tower to separate. Above Shepard, a large solid-fuel rocket roared into life and fierce flames erupted from its three canted nozzles, ripping the tower loose from the spacecraft and pulling it away at a safe angle. “Immediately I noticed the noise in tower jettisoning. I didn’t notice any smoke coming by the porthole as I’d expected I might in my peripheral vision. I think maybe I was riveted on the ‘tower jettison’ green light which looked so good in the capsule.” [9] He promptly threw the ‘retro-jettison’ switch to its ‘disarm’ setting.


Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson watches the progress of the flight, together with President John F. Kennedy and First Lady, Jackie Kennedy. (Photo: NASA)

Ten seconds after the tower departed, the spacecraft separated from the Redstone by severing the connecting Marman clamp and firing the three posigrade rockets on the retropack for a duration of one second.

After the flight, Shepard said he was aware of the noise of the separation rockets firing. “I don’t recall thinking anything in particular at separation, but there’s good medical evidence that I was concerned about it at the time. My pulse rate reached its peak here [at] 132, and started down afterward.” [10]

If the automatic systems had failed, the escape tower and spacecraft separation events could have been manually initiated.

“Cap sep is green,” Shepard reported, as he slipped into a weightless state. As he later observed, “Moments before, I had weighed 1,000 pounds. Now a feather on the surface of the Earth weighed more than I did. Being weightless was… wonderful, marvelous, incredible. [It was a] miracle in comfort. The tiny capsule seemed to expand magically as pressure points vanished. No up, no down, no lying or sitting or standing. A missing washer and bits of dust drifted before my eyes. I laughed out loud. I’d expected silence at this point, with the atmosphere something far below me and no rush of wind despite so many thousands of miles an hour. No friction. No turbulence. But instead there was the murmur of Freedom 7, as though a brook were running mechanically through its structure. Inverters moaned, gyroscopes whirred, cooling fans had their own sound, cameras hummed, the radios crackled and emitted their tones before and after conversational exchanges. The sounds flowed together, some dull, others sharper. [It was a] miniature mechanical orchestra. I found those unex­pected sounds most welcome; they meant things were working, doing, pushing, and repeating. They were the sounds of life.” [11]

Five seconds after Freedom 7 separated from the booster the periscope extended, and the autopilot initiated a turnaround maneuver in which the spacecraft was yawed through 180 degrees to position the heat shield forward, in the direction of reentry. In effect, Shepard was flying backwards.

One major objective of the mission – which would greatly distinguish it from the automated flight of Yuri Gagarin – was timed to start at T+3 minutes 10 seconds, when Shepard switched off the automatic control systems and took manual control of the spacecraft’s attitude or angular position.

“I made this manipulation one axis at a time, switching to pitch, yaw, and roll in that order until I had full control of the craft. I used the instruments first and then the periscope as reference controls. The reaction of the spacecraft was very much like that obtained in the air-bearing [ALFA] trainer…. The spacecraft movement was smooth and could be controlled precisely.” [12]

He was to maintain manual control of the spacecraft throughout the remainder of the flight by using various combinations of the attitude and rate-control systems, also known as the fly-by-wire mode.

At T+3 minutes 50 seconds, he made a number of visual observations using the periscope. These included such things as weather fronts, cloud coverage, and certain preselected reference points on the ground. As he said later, “I was zinging along high above the planet’s atmosphere at better than five thousand miles per hour, but there was nothing by which to judge speed. You need relative comparison for that: a tree, a building, a passing spacecraft. My view of the outside universe was restricted to the


Shepard’s helmeted face was filmed during the flight to record his eyes roving over the instru­ment panel in order to assess whether better placement of some instruments might be benefi­cial for future astronauts. (Photo: NASA)

capsule’s two small portholes, and through those I saw that very deep blue, almost jet black, sky. There was only one available reference to tell me I was actually moving: the Earth below.” [13]

He quickly realized there was a problem with the periscope. While sitting on the launch pad enduring the numerous delays he had tried to look downward through the periscope and found that he was almost blinded by sunshine filling the cabin. He had immediately inserted filters to cut down the glare, but had forgotten to remove the filters prior to launch. Now, peering through the scope, he could only see the view below in shades of gray. As he reached for the filter knob the pressure gauge on his left wrist accidentally bumped against the abort handle.

“I stopped that movement real quick,” he explained later. “Sure, the escape tower was gone, and hitting the abort handle might not have caused any great bother, but this was still a test flight, and I wasn’t about to play guessing games.”

Gray or not, he found the view quite enthralling.

“On the periscope,” he informed Mission Control. “What a beautiful view!” [14]


In 1970 Cdr. Ted Wilbur reflected on transporting Alan Shepard on his aircraft from the USS Lake Champlain to Grand Bahama Island, “No sooner had I cleared the bow than he was out of his seat in the cabin and up to the cockpit, with that big wide grin spread


The TF1 Trader COD carrying Shepard is in the lead, preparing for a rolling takeoff. (Photo courtesy of Ed Killian)

across his face. Shouting above the noise of the COD’s engines, he described his morn­ing’s monumental adventure, and it was easy to see he had been on top of the world, literally.

“National Geographic photographer Dean Conger was on board too, and after a series of pictures were taken, I pointed up ahead to where the Bahamas were coming into view. By then it was mid-afternoon and, as usual, tall [cloud] build-ups were forming over each island. I commented to Shepard that it would be a shame to spoil his day by running into a batch of bad weather. (The strip at Grand Bahama has no instrument facility.) He looked the situation over thoughtfully, then laughed: ‘Swell! Let’s divert to Nassau and pitch a liberty!’ Unfortunately, we made it into GBI in good shape.” [50]

Dean Conger was pictured shaking Shepard’s hand on the aircraft. “Alan and I chatted away,” he recalled. “But I don’t remember any of what we said.” [51]

NASA-released transcript of voice communications during MR-3 flight between spacecraft Freedom 7 (Alan Shepard) and CapCom (Deke Slayton) in the Mercury Control Center

Launch communication beginning at

minus 60 seconds:

– 00.01.00 (CapCom):

One minute and counting. Mark.

-00.00.50 (Shepard):


-00.00.45 (CapCom):

Forty-five and counting. Mark.

– 00.00.40 (Shepard):


– 00.00.30 (CapCom):

Firing command, 30. Mark.

– 00.00.25 (Shepard):

Roger… Periscope has retracted.

– 00.00.28 (CapCom):

That is the best periscope we’ve got.

– 00.00.20 (Shepard):

Main bus 24 volts, 26 amps.

– 00.00.15 (CapCom):

15 … 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero. Liftoff.

After liftoff:

Подпись: Ah, Roger. Liftoff, and the clock has started. Okay, Jose, you’re on your way. Roger. Reading you loud and clear. So can I you. This is Freedom Seven. The fuel is go, 1.2 g, cabin at 14 psi, oxygen is go. Understand. Freedom Seven is still go. This is Seven. Fuel is go, 1.8 psi cabin, and the oxygen is go. Cabin Pressure is holding at 5.5. Cabin holding at 5.5. I can understand. Cabin holding at 5.5. Fuel is go, 2.5 g, cabin 5.5, oxygen is go, the main bus is 24, and the isolated battery is 29. Rog. Reading 5.5. Trajectory looks good. Okay, it’s a lot smoother now. A lot smoother. Very good. + 00.00.02 (Shepard):

+ 00.00.05 (CapCom):

+ 00.00.08 (Shepard):

+ 00.00.13 (CapCom):

+ 00.00.25 (Shepard):

+ 00.00.32 (CapCom):

+ 00.00.48 (Shepard):

+ 00.00.58 (Shepard):

+ 00.01.21 (Shepard):

+ 00.01.27 (CapCom):

+ 00.01.33 (Shepard):

+ 00.01.42 (CapCom):

+ 00.01.50 (Shepard):

+ 00.01.56 (CapCom):



After liftoff:

+ 00.02.01 (Shepard):

Seven here. Fuel is go, 4 g, 5.5 cabin, oxygen go. All systems are go.

+ 00.02.09 (CapCom):

All systems go. Trajectory okay.

+ 00.02.15 (Shepard):

5 g.

+ 00.02.22 (Shepard):

Cutoff. Tower jettison green.

+ 00.02.05 (CapCom):


+ 00.02.27 (Shepard):


+ 00.02.32 (Shepard):

Cap sep is green.

+ 00.02.34 (CapCom):

Cap sep comes up.

+ 00.02.35 (Shepard):

Periscope is coming out and the turnaround has started.

+ 00.02.41 (CapCom):


+ 00.02.50 (Shepard):

ASCS is okay.

+ 00.02.53 (Shepard):

Control movements.

+ 00.02.54 (CapCom):


+ 00.03.04 (Shepard):

Okay, switching to manual pitch.

+ 00.03.08 (CapCom):

Manual pitch.

+ 00.03.21 (Shepard):

Pitch is okay.

+ 00.03.24 (Shepard):

Switching to manual yaw.

+ 00.03.29 (CapCom):

I can understand. Manual yaw.

+ 00.03.35 (CapCom):


+ 00.03.42 (Shepard):

Yaw is okay. Switching to manual roll.

+ 00.03.48 (CapCom):

Manual roll.

+ 00.03.55 (Shepard):

Roll is okay.

+ 00.03.57 (CapCom):

Roll okay. Looks good here.

+ 00.03.59 (Shepard):

On the periscope. What a beautiful view.

+ 00.04.03 (CapCom):

I’ll bet it is.

+ 00.04.05 (Shepard):

Cloud cover over Florida. Three-to-four-tenths near the Eastern coast. Obscured up to Hatteras.

+ 00.04.20 (Shepard):

I can see Okeechobee. Identify Andros Island. Identify the reefs.

+ 00.04.28 (CapCom):

Roger. Down to retro: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, retro-angle.

+ 00.04.44 (Shepard):

Start retro sequence. Retro attitude on green.

+ 00.04.49 (CapCom):


+ 00.04.56 (Shepard):

Control is smooth.

+ 00.05.02 (CapCom):

Roger. Understand all going smooth.

+ 00.05.13 (Shepard):

There’s… Retro one. Very smooth.

+ 00.05.15 (CapCom):

Roger. Roger.

+ 00.05.16 (Shepard):

Retro Two.

+ 00.05.23 (Shepard):

Retro three.

+ 00.05.31 (Shepard):

All three retros are fired.

+ 00.05.33 (CapCom):

All right on the button.

+ 00.05.35 (Shepard):

Okay. Three retros have fired. Retro-jettison is back to armed.

+ 00.05.40 (CapCom):

Roger. Do you see the booster?

+ 00.05.45 (Shepard):

No. Negative.

+ 00.05.55 (Shepard):

Switching to fly-by-wire.

+ 00.06.01 (CapCom):

Fly-by-wire. Understand.

+ 00.06.11 (Shepard):

Roll is okay.

+ 00.06.14 (CapCom):


+ 00.06.16 (Shepard):

Roger. Do not have a light.

Understand you do not have a light.

Подпись: (continued) After liftoff: + 00.06.21 (CapCom): + 00.06.25 (Shepard): + 00.06.29 (CapCom): + 00.06.30 (Shepard): + 00.06.34 (CapCom): + 00.06.36 (Shepard): + 00.06.41 (CapCom): + 00.06.49 (Shepard): + 00.06.56 (CapCom): + 00.07.04 (Shepard): + 00.07.09 (CapCom): + 00.07.14 (Shepard): + 00.07.18 (CapCom): + 00.07.25 (Shepard): + 00.07.32 (CapCom): + 00.07.39 (Shepard): + 00.07.44 (CapCom): + 00.08.04 (Shepard): + 00.08.10 (Shepard): + 00.08.21 (Shepard): + 00.08.23 (CapCom): + 00.08.27 (Shepard): + 00.08.36 (Shepard): + 00.08.40 (CapCom): + 00.08.47 (Shepard): + 00.08.51 (Shepard): + 00.08.56 (Shepard): + 00.08.58 (Shepard): + 00.09.05 (Shepard): + 00.09.14 (Shepard): + 00.09.15 (CapCom): + 00.09.18 (Shepard): + 00.09.20 (Shepard): + 00.09.25 (CapCom): + 00.09.35 (Shepard): I do not have a light. I see the straps falling away. I heard a noise. I will use override.


Override used. The light is green.

… retroject.

Ahhh, Roger. Periscope is retracting.

Periscope retracting.

I’m on fly-by-wire. Going to reentry attitude.

Reentry attitude, Roger. Trajectory is right on the button. Okay, Buster. Reentry attitude. Switching to ASCS normal. Roger.

ASCS is okay.


Switching HF for radio check.

Freedom Seven, CapCom. How do you read HF?

Ahhh, Roger. Reading you loud and clear HF, Deke. How me?

Back to UHF

This is Freedom Seven.

G buildup, 3, 6, 9.

Okay, okay.

Coming through loud and clear.



CapCom; your impact will be right on the button.

This is Seven. Okay.

45,000feet now.

Aah, 40,000feet.

I’m back on ASCS.



CapCom; how do you read now?

Loud and clear. 25,000.

Aah, Roger, Deke, read you loud and clear. How me? Switching over to GBI.

Aah, Roger.

CapCom at GBI (Grand Bahama Island) takes over communications:

+ 00.09.39 (Shepard):

The drogue is green at 21[,000]. The periscope is out. The drogue is out.

+ 00.09.48 (Shepard):

Okay at drogue deploy. I’ve got seven zero percent auto – nine zero percent manual. Oxygen is still okay.

+ 00.09.55 (GBI):

Can you read?

+ 00.09.57 (Shepard):

Thirty five. Sixty seconds.

+ 00.10.00 (GBI):

Can you read?

+ 00.10.02 (Shepard):

I read. And the snorkel’s [out] at about 15,000feet.


CapCom at GBI (Grand Bahama Island) takes over communications:

+ 00.10.06 (Shepard)

Emergency flow rate is on.

+ 00.10.08 (Shepard)

Standing by for main.

+ 00.10.15 (Shepard)

Main on green.

+ 00.10.18 (Shepard)

Main chute is reefed.

+ 00.10.22 (Shepard)

Main chute is green. Main chute is coming unreefed and it looks good.

+ 00.10.28 (Shepard):

Main chute is good. Rate of descent is reading about 35 feet per second.

+ 00.10.40 (Shepard):

Hello CapCom. Freedom Seven. How do you read?

+ 00.10.55 (Shepard):

Hello Cardfile 23 [recovery aircraft], this is Freedom Seven. How do you read?

+ 00.11.00 (GBI):

Freedom Seven, this is Indian CapCom. Do you read me?

+ 00.11.03 (Shepard):

Affirmative, Indian CapCom, let me give you a report. I’m at 7,000feet, the main chute is good, the landing bag is on green, my peroxide has dumped, my condition is good.

+ 00.11.22 (GBI):

Roger, Freedom Seven. I understand you’re at 7,000 feet. Your main chute is open. Your… is okay.

+ 00.11.29 (Shepard):

That is affirmative. Please relay.

+ 00.12.36 (Shepard):

Hello Cardfile 23, Cardfile 23, Freedom Seven. Over.

+ 00.12.42 (Cardfile 23):

Aah, Freedom Seven, Freedom Seven. This is Cardfile 23. Over.

+ 00.12.49 (Shepard):

Aah, this is Seven. Relay back to CapCom please. My altitude now 4,000feet, condition as before. The main chute is good, the landing bag has deployed, the periscope has dumped.

+ 00.13.14 (Cardfile 23):

Aah, Rog. Understand… relay.

+ 00.13.50 (Cardfile 23):

CapCom, this Cardfile 23.

+ 00.14.03 (Shepard):

Aah, Cardfile 23. Freedom Seven.

+ 00.14.06 (Cardfile 23):

Cardfile, this is 23.

+ 00.14.09 (Shepard):

I’m about 1,000feet now. The main chute still looks good. The rate of descent is indicating 30 feet per second.

+ 00.14.15 (Slayton):

Ahh, rog.

+ 00.14.43 (Slayton):

Freedom Seven, this is. transmission from. ah. Cape CapCom.

+ 00.14.59 (Shepard):

This is Seven. Go ahead.

+ 00.15.02 (Slayton):

… transmitted this time.

+ 00.15.05 (Shepard):

Negative. Just relaying my condition is still good. I’m getting ready for impact.

+ 00.15.22 [Splashdown]: