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On This Day: Alan Shepard

On this day, fifty-five years ago, Commander (later Rear Admiral) Alan Shepard became the first American in space, when he piloted the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission on a fifteen-minute sub-orbital flight. Although, three weeks earlier, on April 12th, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first human in space (and the first to orbit the Earth), Shepard’s milestone is significant.  Bolstered by this early success, NASA would push humanity’s frontiers further and further over the coming years, culminating, of course, in the Apollo lunar landings of July 1969.