Although the Americans could have put the first man in space, their concerns for safety meant that the Soviets got there first.
America's plan to get into space, began with the Mercury project, started in 1958.
On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space on board Freedom 7 on a fifteen minute flight that did not get into orbit.
The first American in orbit was John Glenn, on board an Atlas rocket, who later became the oldest man in space, when he flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95) at the age of 77. He orbited the Earth three times.
Gemini began in 1961 and it was where the US learned to operate in space with activities such as space walking, docking spacecraft and endurance.
Gemini was then cancelled to make way for the Apollo Program.
NASA Project Gemini 2