The Soviet Union and the United States transfixed the world by launching the first human beings into space in 1961. On April 12, the Soviet Union launched Yuri Gagarin on a successful one-orbit flight. Then on May 5, Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he piloted his Freedom 7 spacecraft on a 15-minute suborbital flight.
This exhibit celebrates those achievements and examines their technological challenges and public impact, as well as the secrecy surrounding the Soviet effort. At the center of the exhibit are scale models of Gagarin’s and Shepard’s spacecraft: the Vostok 3KA and Mercury capsule.