Mercury Atlas 7, combining Mercury craft 18 and Atlas launch vehicle 107-D, was launched on May 24, 1962, with the capsule bearing the slightly more memorable name of Aurora 7. It was a fairly short flight for pilot M Scott Carpenter, the fourth American in space, lasting a little under 5 hours. But that was still time for him to circle the Earth three times, photographing his home planet and studying the behaviour of liquids in weightlessness, before coming down approximately 250 miles off course.
Asteroid 131 Vala was discovered on May 24th, 1873, by Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters, and named after a Norse prophetess. It is a K type, main belt asteroid of approximately 35 to 40 km diameter.
Vala is the anglicisation of the old Norse word völva, meaning “wand carrier”, and refers not to a specific individual, but to a class of seeress, feared and revered by society, and in the habit of carrying a wand.