In May 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he was launched about 115 miles in a small capsule nicknamed Freedom 7.
Though Shepard's suborbital flight lasted just over 15 minutes, it marked the beginning of the United States' quest to put a man on the moon (and to try to best the Russian space program, which had gotten a man into space first.)
A full-scale reproduction of that capsule, part of the Mercury space program, is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.
Viewers may be surprised at how small the capsule was: 9-feet, 7-inches high and a little more than 6 feet in diameter.
The replica was built by Bruce Olds of Thonotosassa, who said in a press release that he wants to show young people what led to today's shuttle program. "I want them to see how it all started," he said. "It was a time of bold technological advances."
The Freedom 7 replica will be on display in the museum's Flight and Space gallery through January. MOSI also is featuring space in its IMAX Dome Theater. The 47-minute film Space Station, a documentary about the International Space Station narrated by Tom Cruise, continues through Nov. 21.