May 5, 2016 has been selected as National Astronaut Day and today is the first annual observance. The day coincides with NASA astronaut Alan Shepard’s historic suborbital flight aboard Mercury-Redstone 3 on May 5, 1961. Riding inside the Freedom 7 Mercury space capsule, Shepard’s quick jaunt took him 116-miles into space before splashing down a little over 300 miles from Cape Canaveral fifteen minutes after launch. A small step heralding bigger things to come.
Pictured is John Glenn’s spacesuit on display at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC, which is typical of the spacesuits worn during Project Mercury. At right is the suit worn by Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person to orbit the Earth.