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Caption: First US manned spacecraft recovery, 1961. Helicopters carry the Freedom 7 capsule and astronaut Alan Shepard to a waiting ship after his space flight on 5th May 1961. This mission (Mercury-Redstone 3) launched Alan Shepard into space as part of the Mercury programme, making him the first US astronaut to travel into space, and the second person worldwide after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin - who had made his flight in April of that year. The flight lasted less than 16 minutes, reaching a height of 187 kilometres, and splashdown was 486 kilometres from the Cape Canaveral launch point. Unlike Gagarin, Shepard did not orbit the Earth.

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First US manned spacecraft recovery, 1961

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