On July 21, Gus Grissom would ride another suborbital Mercury-Redstone flight, famously losing his spacecraft, the Liberty Bell 7, before John Glenn would become the first American to orbit the earth, riding the more powerful Atlas ICBM booster into orbit. But the most historically important moment happened mere weeks after Alan Shepherd's flight, May 25, 1961. John F. Kennedy announced
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."I suppose you had to be there. I was captivated and became a space geek kid.
As big a fan as I was - and am - of space exploration, NASA's finest days were over by about 1980. Today, it's an arthritic bureaucracy better at preserving itself than exploring. I don't know for sure that the future is with Spacex and not one of their competitors, but this week they took the unusual step of posting their actual costs to develop their rockets and the actual costs of their flights. This is unheard of in that business.
The Falcon 9 launch vehicle was developed from a blank sheet to first launch in four and half years for just over $300 million. The Falcon 9 is an EELV class vehicle that generates roughly one million pounds of thrust (four times the maximum thrust of a Boeing 747) and carries more payload to orbit than a Delta IV Medium.