Collection Item Summary:
This flag, which accompanied NASA astronaut Alan B. Shepard on his 15 minute suborbital journey on May 5, 1961 as the first US human spaceflight, was the first US flag to have been flown in space twice.
First, it was the first US flag included on a human spaceflight. 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 it returned to Earth, the flag was also flown over Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA on July 4, 1961. Gilruth then returned the flag to the school, which was later called the Freedom 7 School. After the school later closed, the Smithsonian Institution received it in 1984 as a gift of the Brevard (Florida) County Board of Education.
Then, while the flag was on loan to the Kennedy Space Center and on display at the Astronaut Hall of Fame, NASA sent the flag back to space in 1995 aboard STS-71, which was the 100th human spaceflight flown by the United States.