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The first United States human spaceflight was piloted by Alan Shepherd, Jr., America's first astronaut. The objective was to put a man in orbit around the Earth and return him safely. Shepard's mission was a 15-minute suborbital flight with the primary objective of demonstrating his ability to withstand the high g-forces of launch and atmospheric re-entry. Shepard was not the first human in space, however, as Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, had launched into orbit less than one month earlier.
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