This is a reproduction of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Distinguished Service Medal given to astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. on May 8, 1961. The Distinguished Service Medal is NASA's highest award and is given to those who by their distinguished service or courage have made a substantial contribution to the progress of aeronautical or space exploration in the United States. Alan Shepard was the first American in space when on May 5, 1961, a Mercury-Redstone rocket launched him in his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule on a 15-minute suborbital flight. He reached a maximum altitude of 115 miles and landed 302 miles downrange from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Although this flight was three weeks after the launch of the first Soviet cosmonaut in space, Yuri Gagarin, it was a major step forward and helped establish widespread support for the human spaceflight program in the United States. The medal became a part of the National Collection in 1964.
Gift of NASA Headquarters