This flag, which accompanied NASA astronaut Alan B. Shepard on his 15 minute suborbital journey on May 5, 1961, the first U.S. human spaceflight, was apparently the first U.S. flag flown into space. The student council president and the principal of Cocoa Beach School near the Florida launch site gave the flag to a reporter, who in turn gave it to the head of the NASA Space Task Group, Robert Gilruth, with the request that it be included on Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3), if possible. The flag was rolled up and stuck in a wiring bundle in Shepard's spacecraft, Freedom 7, although he was not aware that it was there. After the mission Gilruth returned the flag to the school, which was later called the Freedom 7 School. After the school later closed, the Smithsonian received it in 1984 as a gift of the Brevard (Florida) County Board of Education.
Gift of the Brevard County Board of Education