On this day, May 5 ...

1961: Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. becomes America’s first space traveler as he makes a 15-minute suborbital flight aboard Mercury capsule Freedom 7.

Also on this day:

  • 1494: During his second voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus lands in Jamaica.
  • 1818: Karl Marx, co-author of “The Communist Manifesto” and author of “Das Kapital,” is born in Prussia.
  • 1821: Napoleon Bonaparte dies in exile on the island of St. Helena.
  • 1862: “Cinco de Mayo” - Mexican troops defeat French occupying forces in the Battle of Puebla.
  • 1891: New York’s Carnegie Hall (then known as “Music Hall”) has its official opening night, featuring Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky as a guest conductor.
  • 1892: Congress passes the Geary Act, which requires Chinese people in the United States to carry certificates of residence at all times or face deportation.
  • 1925: Schoolteacher John T. Scopes is charged in Tennessee with violating a state law that prohibits teaching the theory of evolution. (Scopes would be found guilty, but his conviction was set aside.)
  • 1934: The first Three Stooges short for Columbia Pictures, “Woman Haters,” is released.
  • 1942: Wartime sugar rationing begins in the United States.
  • 1945: In the only deadly attack of its kind during World War II, a Japanese balloon bomb explodes on Gearhart Mountain in Oregon, killing the pregnant wife of a minister and five children.
  • 1981: Irish Republican Army hunger-striker Bobby Sands dies at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland on his 66th day without food.

American Michael Fay, 19, accompanied by his father George, behind, leaving the Queenstown Prison in Singapore following his release. (AP Photo/Tan Ah Soon, File)

  • 1994: Singapore canes American Michael Fay for vandalism, a day after the sentence was reduced from six lashes to four in response to an appeal by President Bill Clinton.
  • 2009: Connie Culp, America’s first face transplant recipient, appears before reporters at the Cleveland Clinic. 
  • 2009: Texas health officials confirm the first death of a U.S. resident with swine flu.
  • 2014: A narrowly divided Supreme Court upholds Christian prayers at the start of local council meetings.
  • 2018: NASA launches its InSight spacecraft bound for Mars from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, marking the first interplanetary mission ever to depart from the West Coast.