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Stamp honors Alan Shepard, first American in space

The first American in space, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, was honored with his own stamp on the eve of the 50th anniversary of his flight.

The Postal Service dedicated the Forever stamp Wednesday to commemorate Shepard's suborbital flight on May 5, 1961. He is the first astronaut to be honored, all by himself, on a stamp.

Forever stamps don't have a value on them and remain valid for first-class postage regardless of rate increases.

Twenty Shepard family members, including the late astronaut's three daughters, gathered at Cape Canaveral's Kennedy Space Center with more than 100 others for the afternoon ceremony.

Scott Carpenter, 86, one of the two surviving Mercury astronauts, recalled that Shepard didn't like being beaten into space by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin by less than a month. But, Carpenter said, the success of Shepard's flight helped lead America to the moon.

Shepard's Freedom 7 capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral. It reached an altitude of 116 miles and a speed of 5,100 mph before splashing down 15 minutes later into the Atlantic.

Shepard went on to command Apollo 14 in 1971 and became the fifth man to walk on the moon. He died in 1998 at age 74.

On Wednesday, the Postal Service also issued a Forever stamp to honor NASA's Messenger spacecraft, the first to orbit the planet Mercury. It was launched from Cape Canaveral in 2004 and entered orbit around Mercury last month.

Shuttle fuse box had blown circuit

NASA said Wednesday that a switch box removed from space shuttle Endeavour has a blown circuit. The repair work is taking longer than expected. That means Endeavour's launch may face another delay. NASA currently is targeting a launch for May 10 at the earliest. Endeavour was supposed to blast off April 29.

Stamp honors Alan Shepard, first American in space 05/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 10:16pm]
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