Blast Off: The First American Sent Into Space

Alan inspects his capsule

The first American was sent into space on this day May 5th, back in 1961. Guess what? Yep – British Pathé have the video of it. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world. This unissued clip shows liquid oxygen being pumped at night into the rocket from a fittingly space-age looking white tanker. The astronaut Alan B Shepard is filmed arriving out of a van in his dashing silver jumpsuit and white crash helmet before being lifted in an elevator to the top of the rocket. A frenzical crowd of technicians dressed in white boiler suits and navy-like hats rush about preparing the mercury capsule whilst Alan B Shepard inspects their work before climbing into the tiny capsule, called Freedom 7.

Being entirely mute this video is shrouded in suspense and mystery to the uninformed viewer, with its variety of exciting clips: Men with clipboards in sunglasses, the TV control room, US military trucks packed with soldiers egging the astronaut on and of course the episodical glimpses of the magnificent rocket. Finally we see Alan B Shepard being hauled from his mercury capsule into a helicopter and then driven off in a sports car. Priceless.

Watch the first American to travel into space here.

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Author: British Pathé

British Pathé holds the world's finest newsreel collection. We also represent the Reuters historical collection. All 220K films are viewable on our website.

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