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10 iconic NASA images

Sept. 20, 2010, 12:25 p.m.
Astronaut Alan B. Shepard is hoisted aboard a U.S. Marine helicopter after splashdown of his "Freedom 7" Mercury space capsule.

Photo: NASA

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Freedom 7 recovery

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to travel in space during the Freedom 7 mission. He was the second person to do so, as Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had performed the feat a month earlier.

As NASA reports, Shepard spent 15 minutes and 28 seconds up there, traveling 303 miles around the Earth at 5,134 miles per hour. His launch was originally delayed because weather prohibited good photography of NASA’s most exciting event to date.