Astronomy and Space


Who was the first man in space?

Yuri Gagarin (1934–1968), a Soviet cosmonaut, became the first man in space when he made a full orbit of Earth in Vostok I on April 12, 1961. Gagarin’s flight lasted only 1 hour and 48 minutes, but as the first man in space, he became an international hero. Partly because of this Soviet success, U.S. president John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) announced on May 25, 1961, that the United States would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. The United States took its first step toward that goal when it launched the first American into orbit on February 20, 1962. Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. (1921–) completed three orbits in Friendship 7 and traveled about 81,000 miles (130,329 kilometers). Prior to this, on May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard Jr. (1923–1998) became the first American to pilot a spaceflight, aboard Freedom 7. This suborbital flight reached an altitude of 116.5 miles (187.45 kilometers).


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