Fifty years ago: Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight

An evening pause: Fifty years ago today, America’s response to Gagarin and the Soviets, Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight.

Or as he said as he lifted off, “The clock has started.”

The flight actually lasted 15 minutes 22 seconds. Though only a fourth the size of Gagarin’s much bigger Vostok capsule, the Mercury capsule was steerable. During the flight Shepard adjusted the capsule’s pitch, roll, and yaw, proving that humans could pilot a spacecraft manually.