The following events occurred in 1961 CE, or Common Era.
- Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to be launched into Earth's orbit on April 12, thus ending humanity's status as a pre-spaceflight species. Three weeks later, Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space, but his shuttle fails to reach orbit. He becomes the first human to pilot a spacecraft; Gagarin's craft had been placed on an automatic flight route, as scientists did not know what effect a weightless environment would have on the human body.
- United States President John F. Kennedy announces plans for the US to become the first nation to reach Luna.