SHEPARD, Alan Bartlett (1923-1998) Vehicle Commander's Report 15th May 1961, signed
Lot 34
CONFIRMING THE "FIRST" MANNED SPACE FLIGHT.
Sold for US$ 9,760 inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
CONFIRMING THE "FIRST" MANNED SPACE FLIGHT.
"National Aeronautic Association, United States Representative, Fédération aeronautique internationale. Vehicle Commander's Report." 1 p, printed and filled in by typewriter. May 15, 1961. 11 x 8½ inches. Signed ("Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr.") and dated. Paperclip rust mark at upper left corner.

"Record classification: WORLD - Non-Air Breathing Manned Rockets. (a) Altitude without Earth Orbit (b) Greatest Mass Lifted without Earth Orbit." The document that should, technically, have proclaimed Alan Shepard's flight as the first successful manned space flight.
The Fédération aeronautique internationale, the world governing body for aeronautical world records, had decreed that to qualify as a record for the first manned space flight, the pilot had to take off and land in the same vehicle. When Gagarin re-entered the atmosphere on April 12, 1961, and was still 4 miles from the ground, he ejected from the Vostok 1 spacecraft as planned, and he and the Vostok landed separately by parachute.
Gagarin's ejection was covered up by the Soviet authorities, and he was forced to lie in press conferences and official statements. As a result, the FAI certified Vostok 1 as the first successful manned space flight. Only in 1971 did the truth come out, by which point Gagarin's record was popularly accepted.
Piloting the Mercury capsule Freedom 7 on May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard conformed to the FAI's rules and should by rights have been granted the main world record. Instead, the present document confirms the other records set by Freedom 7: the maximum altitude of 116 miles, and the spacecraft's mass at its apogee of 2,850 lb. Shepard confirms "I was aboard the above vehicle at the time it was launched from the earth's surface, remained aboard during the period stated herein, and was returned to the earth's surface at the location indicated below."
Activities
Contacts
  1. Matthew Haley
    Auction Administration - Space History
    Bonhams
    Work
    Montpelier Street
    London, SW7 1HH
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 20 7393 3817