First Flight

The 50th anniversary of America’s first manned spaceflight is being honored in May with the release of two special-edition stamps by the U.S. Postal Service. One stamp features NASA’s Project Mercury and bears a portrait of NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, who became the first American in space on May 5, 1961 with his flight on the Freedom 7 spacecraft. The other stamp salutes NASA’s current Messenger mission, in which an unmanned orbiter is photographing the planet Mercury after a six-year journey from Earth. Readers who want to learn more about America’s space program should check out The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe’s still fascinating 1979 account of the Mercury astronauts and the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.


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