5 May 1961 Alan Shepard first American in Space
In January 1961, Alan Shepard was chosen for the first American manned mission into space. Although the flight was originally scheduled for October 1960, delays meant that this was postponed several times, initially to March 6, 1961 and finally to May 5. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first person in space and to orbit the Earth.
On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 mission and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space. He was launched by a Redstone rocket, but unlike Gagarin, whose flight was strictly automatic, Shepard had some control of Freedom 7. The launch was seen live on television by millions.