NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Recovery of the first American into space. Astronaut Alan Shepard being winched into a helicopter at the end of the first US manned spaceflight. His capsule is seen at bottom left. The sub-orbital flight of 15 minutes 22 seconds took place on 5 May 1961. This was 23 days after Gagarin's historical orbital flight, much to the chagrin of America. Shepard's craft, named Freedom 7, reached an altitude of 187.5km, a speed of 8336 km/h and landed in the Atlantic Ocean 486km from launch. He was weightless for about 5 minutes of the flight, experiencing forces of 6g on take-off and 11g on re-entry. Shepard later flew to the Moon on Apollo 14 in 1971.
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