On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to journey into space, reaching an altitude of 116 miles. Although Shepard’s brief venture—it lasted only fifteen minutes—could not match the recent orbital journey of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the mission was critically important for national prestige, especially with all of the world watching. Shepard became an instant hero with the pinpoint splashdown of his capsule, Freedom 7, in the Atlantic. "This is just a baby step," predicted his wife Louise, "compared to what we will see" in the future. Ten years later, Shepard made his second space flight as commander of Apollo 14 and became the only Mercury astronaut to walk on the moon. That critical mission spanned ten days.