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Tops in Innovation, NASA Marks Anniversary of Al Shepard’s Mercury Mission


Now ranked as the most innovative place to work within the U. S. federal government, NASA on Sunday marked the 52nd anniversary of the first American spaceflight.

Mercury Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Photo Credit/NASA

On May 5, 1961, NASA astronaut Alan B. Shepard lifted off from Cape  Canaveral, Fla., aboard the Mercury capsule he christened Freedom 7 at 9:34 a.m., EST. His Redstone rocket powered suborbital flight rose to an altitude of 116 miles before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean 303 miles from the launch pad. In all,  Shepard flew 15 minutes, 28 seconds.

Al Shepard, commander of NASA's 1971 Apollo 14 lunar landing mission. Photo Credit/NASA Photo

Shepard’s flight followed by 23 days the first human trip to space, a single orbit of the Earth by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Within weeks of the achievement, U. S. President John Kennedy committed NASA to reaching the moon with explorers within the decade of the 1960s.

On July 20, 1969, NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped to the surface of the moon as the commander and lunar module pilot of the Apollo 11 mission, fulfilling JFK’s directive. Shepard, who died in 1998, was among the 10 Apollo astronauts who followed Armstrong and Aldrin to the lunar surface. No other country has matched the feat.

Neil Armstong folloing Apollo 11 moon walk. Photo Credit/NASA

NASA, which currently serves as the managing partner of the 15 nation International Space Station, has set its sights on a new human destination, Mars, and the nurturing of commercial U.  S. orbital transportation services to support the space station.

NASA tops the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency in recently released rankings of the federal government’s most innovative places to work as established by the non profit Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte, the global audit, consulting and financial advisory company.

NASA’s scored a 76.5 in the assessment process, up 1.5 percent from 2011. PPS and Deloitte assigned innovation scores based on a sub study of their annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” analysis. The annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey itself is conducted each year by the White House Office of Personnel Management.

NASA also rated highest in effective leadership among federal agencies, according to a similar analysis of the 2012 OPM survey by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte.

Responses to three questions drawn from the survey provided the basis for the innovation scores:

*I am constantly looking for ways to do my job better?

*I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things?

*Creativity and innovation are rewarded?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which employees a civil servant workforce of about 18,000, was established in 1958 to advance research and technology in aviation and space exploration.





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