Illustration for article titled Space Fact #1: Astronauts Have Cojones the Size of Manhattan

This is Alan Shepard being lifted to a Navy's helicopter from his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule after a 15-minute suborbital flight on May 5, 1961. He became America's first astronaut 48 years ago today.


This is particularly amazing—almost miraculous—because the Mercury program was developed from scratch in very little time. If you have never seen the Freedom capsules up close and personal, here's a description about how they are: Tiny tin cans. I saw one and I just couldn't believe how any human could have the guts to get into something a little bigger than a phone booth to get launched into a ballistic missile trajectory, all while on top of a few tons of highly flammable fuel. It just defies belief.

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