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Mercury Redstone 3



Mercury Redstone 3 (MR-3, also designated Freedom 7) was the first flight of an American rocket with a human on board (Alan B. Shepard, Jr.), occurring twenty-three days after Yuri Gagarin's orbital flight of Vostok 1. The objectives of MR-3 were to: (1) familiarize man with a brief but complete space flight experience, including the lift-off, powered flight, weightless flight (approximately 5 minutes), re-entry, and landing phases of the flight; (2) evaluate man's ability to perform as a functional unit during space flight by demonstrating manual control of spacecraft attitude before, during, and after retrofire and by use of voice communications during flight; (3) study man's physiological reactions during space flight; and, (4) recover the astronaut and spacecraft.

The Redstone booster performed well, although there were some vibrations. After separation, Shepard exercised manual control of the spacecraft in both the "fly-by-wire" and manual proportional modes. The attitude control system operated nominally, with few thruster fuel leaks. Re-entry and landing were accomplished without any difficulty. The Mercury capsule lacked a window through which Shepard could view his surroundings, but a periscope allowed him views of the outside during the pre-launch and weightless phases of the mission.

During the flight, the spacecraft attained a maximum velocity of 8,200 km/hour and an altitude of 186.4 km. The capsule landed 483 km downrange from Cape Canaveral, at 75 degrees 53 minutes west longitude, 27 degrees 13.7 minutes north latitude in the Atlantic Ocean. Shepard experienced a maximum g-force of 6 during the booster acceleration phase of the mission and slightly less than 12 on re-entry. The duration of flight was 15 minutes and 22 s, with weightlessness lasting for about 5 minutes.

After splashdown, the Mercury capsule and its pilot were returned by helicopter to the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain. Just three weeks following this first successful manned mission, President Kennedy addressed Congress and set the nations goal to send a man successfully to the Moon and back.

Alternate Names

  • Freedom 7
  • MR-3
  • MercuryRedstone3

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1961-05-05
Launch Vehicle: Redstone
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 955 kg

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Manned Space Flight (United States)


  • Engineering
  • Human Crew

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. Edwin V. Bell, II



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail

Selected References

  • Grimwood, J. M., Project Mercury: A chronology, NASA, SP-4001, Wash., D.C., 1963.
  • Results of the first U.S. manned suborbital space flight, NASA, Unnumbered, Wash., D.C., June 1961.

Other Sources of MR-3 Information/Data

MR-3 information (NASA KSC)
MR-3 Press Release images (NASA JSC)

On-line version of Project Mercury: A Chronology (NASA History Office)

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