Mercury Spacecraft Replica

Be amazed by this life-size replica of the Mercury spacecraft that put the first American in space.

Could the United States send an astronaut into space and bring him home safely? That’s the question NASA aimed to answer when Alan Shepard climbed into the spacecraft he named “Freedom 7.”

On the morning of May 5, 1961, Freedom 7 roared into the sky from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, making Shepard the first American in space. His flight lasted just 15 minutes, but it brought him high enough to see the blackness of space above him and the curved edge of Earth below him.

Shepard’s highest altitude above Earth was 116.5 miles (187 km). That’s almost exactly the distance from MOSI to his launch pad at Cape Canaveral!

Above MOSI’s lobby hangs a life-size replica of Shepard’s historic ship. As you can see from the replica, the spaceship held Shepard and not much else -- it’s as big inside as a large refrigerator box!

But it did the job of NASA’s early Mercury program: testing the basics of sending humans into space and making sure the equipment -- and the astronauts -- could work properly, flying in microgravity more than 100 miles above the surface of our planet.