A month after Gagarin's historic mission, the first piloted Mercury flight was made by astronaut Alan Shepard, in space capsule Freedom 7. This was a suborbital flight, traveling beyond Earth's atmosphere without going into orbit.
The second Mercury flight was also suborbital. By the time John Glenn earned the distinction of being the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, on 20 February 1962, the Soviet Union had already completed four piloted missions—one lasting four days. There were six Vostok flights in all, includ-ing one that carried Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, in June 1963.
Later Mercury flights tested maneuvering systems, satellite deployment, and human performance in zero gravity.