May 5 this year marks the 61st anniversary of the launch of the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, who in 1961 made a 15-minute suborbital flight and reached an altitude of 187 kilometers.
Just 23 days after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first orbital flight, under pressure from the White House and the American public, NASA has responded to the challenge of removing a human from the atmosphere, NASA reports.
Shepherd made a sub-orbital flight aboard the Freedom 7 capsule, propelled by a Mercury Redstone 3 missile. Then-Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, mocked the mission as merely a “flea jump”, compared to that of Yuri Gagarin, who flew for 1 hour and 48 minutes, arriving Its height is 357 kilometers.
But unlike Gagarin’s flight, which was fully automatic, Shepherd had some control over his suborbital transmission, particularly its altitude, Wikipedia reports.
Due to this fact, Americans consider him the first astronaut from the United States, although the first proper American orbital flight was made by John Glenn aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962.
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