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Florida history week of April 30 to May 6

"Boy what a ride," says astronaut.
Florida history week of April 30 to May 6
Waiting for Space Trip ... Alan Shepard rests in his capsule awaiting space shot (The Tampa Bay Times, May 5, 1961)
The whole front page of The Tampa Times the evening of May 5, 1961

“Boy what a ride,” says Astronaut, in The Tampa Times headline that both understated the event and perhaps missed the historical significance that the name Alan Shepard would have for space flight nerds the world over.[1]On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard rode a converted missile launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, into space, becoming the first American and only the second human, to ever leave the Earth’s atmosphere. “What a beautiful sight,” he said from above the Earth. It would be almost a year later when John Glenn would surpass Shepard's flight into space by orbiting the Earth in February of 1962.

The top half of The Cocoa Tribune (aka The Evening Tribune) on May 5, 1961

In Brevard County, the local press retold the tale from multiple angles, including an above the fold headline that read, “Flight is covered by sea,” written by a breathless reporter named Dough Drederer.[2]The top of the page, above the masthead read, “Welcome, visiting nobles, to Cocoa and Central Brevard County.” In another front page story The Cocoa Tribune, the only Brevard County paper I could find (which does not mean it was the only paper there but Brevard County in 1960 had just about 100,000 residents—five times more than in 1950!), the paper told of the magical experience for county residents. “For a brief moment, when America’s first spaceman released the world’s greatest democracy from the earth, the day was filled with magic. For a moment, nearly everyone in this area stepped outside himself and watched the birth of a new age.”[3]

Dederer, Doug. “Flight Is Covered from Sea.” The Evening Tribune, May 5, 1961.

The Evening Tribune. “Cocoa Watches as America Enters the Age of Space.” May 5, 1961.

Times Wire Service. “‘Boy What a Ride,’ Says Astronaut.” The Tampa Times, May 5, 1961, sec. Front Page.

[1] Times Wire Service, “‘Boy What a Ride,’ Says Astronaut.”

[2] Dederer, “Flight Is Covered from Sea.”

[3] “Cocoa Watches as America Enters the Age of Space.”