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May 5, 1961
May 5, 1961

Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. sits in his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule, ready for launch. Just 23 days earlier, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first man in space. ''That little race between Gagarin and me,'' Shepard said, ''was really, really close.'' After several delays and more than four hours in the capsule, Shepard was ready to go, and he famously urged mission controllers to ''fix your little problem and light this candle.''

Image Credit: NASA

Page Last Updated: October 23rd, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator