On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space, following cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's mission three weeks earlier. With the United States trailing the Soviet Union in spaceflight, President John F. Kennedy closely watched the launch of Freedom 7, eager for proof that America could match Soviet achievements. In his flawless performance, Shepard--whose position in the space program owed much to the work of Harvard-trained physicians--became the archetype of the American astronaut. In this talk, marking the 60th anniversary of the first American in space, Matthew Hersch will recount the events of Shepard's flight and offer a discussion of astronaut selection, then and now.
Presented by the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture
Matthew H. Hersch, Associate Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University
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