alan b shepard

Alan Shepard


Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) (Rear Admiral, USN, Ret.) was the second man and the first American in space. He later commanded the Apollo 14 mission, and was the fifth man to walk on the moon. He was also one of many famous descendants of Mayflower passenger Richard Warren.

Naval career

Shepard began his naval career after graduation from Annapolis, on the destroyer USS Cogswell, deployed in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. He subsequently entered flight training at Corpus Christi, Texas and Pensacola, Florida, and received his wings in 1947. His next assignment was with Fighter Squadron 42 at Norfolk, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida. He served several tours aboard aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean while with this squadron.

In 1950, he attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. After graduation, he participated in flight test work which included high-altitude tests to obtain data on light at different altitudes and on a variety of air masses over the American continent; test and development experiments of the Navy's in-flight refueling system; carrier suitability trials of the F2H-3 Banshee; and Navy trials of the first angled carrier deck. He was subsequently assigned to Fighter Squadron 193 at Moffett Field, California, a night fighter unit flying Banshee jets. As operations officer of this squadron, he made two tours to the western Pacific on board the carrier USS Oriskany.

He returned to Patuxent for a second tour of duty and engaged in flight testing the F3H Demon, F8U Crusader, F4D Skyray, and F11F Tiger. He was also project test pilot on the F5D Skylancer, and his last five months at Patuxent were spent as an instructor in the Test Pilot School. He later attended the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, and upon graduating in 1957 was subsequently assigned to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, as aircraft readiness officer.

He logged more than 8,000 hours flying time—3,700 hours in jet aircraft.

Astronaut career

Project Mercury

In 1959, Shepard was one of 110 military test pilots invited by the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration to volunteer for the first manned space flight program. Following a gruelling series of tests, Shepard became one of the original group of seven Mercury astronauts.

In January, 1961 Shepard was chosen for the first American manned mission into space. Although the flight was originally scheduled to take place in October 1960, delays caused by unplanned preparatory work meant that this was postponed several times, initially to March 6, 1961 and finally to May, 1961. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first man to orbit the Earth.

Freedom 7

On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 mission and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space. He was launched by a Redstone rocket, and unlike Gagarin's one-hour orbital flight, Shepard stayed on a ballistic trajectory suborbital flight—a flight which carried him to an altitude of 116 statute miles and to a landing point 302 statute miles down the Atlantic Missile Range. Unlike Gagarin, whose flight was strictly automatic, Shepard had some control of Freedom 7, spacecraft attitude in particular. The launch, return from space and subsequent collection by helicopter were seen live on television by millions.

On his successful return to Earth, Shepard was celebrated as a national hero, honored with parades in Washington, New York and Los Angeles and meeting President John F. Kennedy.

Shortly before the launch, Shepard said "Please, dear God, don't let me fuck up." This has since become known among aviators as "Shepard's Prayer."

According to Gene Kranz in his book Failure Is Not an Option:

Later, he was scheduled to pilot the Mercury-Atlas 10 Freedom 7-II, three day extended duration mission in October 1963. The MA-10 mission was cancelled on June 13, 1963. He was the back-up pilot for Gordon "Gordo" Cooper for the MA-9 mission.

Project Gemini

After the Mercury-Atlas 10 mission was cancelled in June 1963, Shepard was designated as the command pilot of the first manned Gemini mission. Thomas Stafford was picked as his co-pilot. But in early 1964, Shepard was diagnosed with Ménière's disease, a condition in which fluid pressure builds up in the inner ear. This syndrome causes the semicircular canals and motion detectors to become extremely sensitive, resulting in disorientation, dizziness, and nausea. This condition caused him to be removed from flight status for most of the 1960s (Gus Grissom and John Young were assigned to Gemini 3 instead).

Also in 1963, he was designated Chief of the Astronaut Office with responsibility for monitoring the coordination, scheduling, and control of all activities involving NASA astronauts. This included monitoring the development and implementation of effective training programs to assure the flight readiness of available pilot/non-pilot personnel for assignment to crew positions on manned space flights; furnishing pilot evaluations applicable to the design, construction, and operations of spacecraft systems and related equipment; and providing qualitative scientific and engineering observations to facilitate overall mission planning, formulation of feasible operational procedures, and selection and conduct of specific experiments for each flight.

Apollo Program

Shepard was restored to full flight status in May 1969, following corrective surgery (using a newly developed method) for Ménière's disease. He was originally assigned to command Apollo 13, but as it was felt he needed more time to train, he and his crewmates (lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell and command module pilot Stuart Roosa) swapped missions with the then crew of Apollo 14 (James Lovell, Ken Mattingly and Fred Haise).

Apollo 14

At age 47, and the oldest astronaut in the program, Shepard made his second space flight as commander of Apollo 14, January 31–February 9, 1971, America's third successful lunar landing mission. Shepard piloted his Lunar Module Antares to the most accurate landing of the entire Apollo program. This was the first mission to successfully broadcast color television pictures from the surface of the Moon, using the vidicon tube. (The color camera on Apollo 12 provided a few brief moments of color telecasting before it was inadvertently pointed at the sun, effectively ending its usefulness.) While on the Moon, Shepard played golf with a Wilson six-iron head attached to a lunar sample scoop handle Despite thick gloves and a stiff spacesuit which forced him to swing the club with one hand only, Shepard struck two golf balls, driving the second, as he jokingly put it, "miles and miles and miles."

Following Apollo 14, Shepard returned to his position as Chief of the Astronaut Office in June, 1971. He was promoted to Rear Admiral before finally retiring both from the Navy and NASA on August 1, 1974.

Awards and honors

During his life he was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor; two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, Naval Astronaut Wings, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross; recipient of the Langley Award (highest award of the Smithsonian Institution) on May 5, 1964, the Lambert Trophy, the Iven C. Kincheloe Award, the Cabot Award, the Collier Trophy, and the City of New York Gold Medal for 1971.

Shepard was appointed by President Nixon in July 1971 as a delegate to the 26th United Nations General Assembly, and served through the entire assembly session from September to December 1971.

The Navy named a supply ship, Alan Shepard (T-AKE-3), for him in 2006. A geodesic dome was built in his honor in Virginia Beach, Virginia but demolished in 1994

A model of the Redstone missile which was used to launch Shepard aboard Freedom 7 into space, is still on display in the Warren, New Hampshire town square.

Interstate 93 in New Hampshire, from the Massachusetts border to its intersection with Route 101 in Manchester, is named in his honor. It passes through his native Derry.

Interstate 565 in northern Alabama connecting Decatur, Alabama and Huntsville, Alabama is officially the "Admiral Alan B. Shepard Highway."

Derry almost changed its name to "Spacetown", considering it in honor of his career as an astronaut. Following an Act of Congress, the Post Office in Derry is designated the 'Alan B. Shepard, Jr. Post Office Building'.

His high school alma mater in Derry, Pinkerton Academy, has a building named after him, and the school team name is the Astros after his career as an astronaut.

Alan B. Shepard High School, in Palos Heights, Illinois, which opened in 1976, was named in his honor. Framed newspapers throughout the school depict various accomplishments and milestones in Shepard's life. Additionally, an autographed plaque commemorates the dedication of the building. The school newspaper is named Freedom 7 and the yearbook is entitled Odyssey.

Other schools which honor his memory include Alan B. Shepard Middle School, Deerfield, Illinois; Alan B. Shepard Middle School, San Antonio, Texas; Alan B. Shepard Elementary School, Bourbonnais, Illinois, Alan B. Shepard Elementary School, Old Bridge, New Jersey and, formerly, Alan B. Shepard Elementary School in Highland Park, Illinois (closed).

Later years

Always a shrewd businessman, Shepard was the first astronaut to become a millionaire while still in the program. After he left the program, he served on the boards of many corporations under the auspices of his Seven-Fourteen Enterprises (named for his two flights, Freedom 7 and Apollo 14).

In 1994, he published a book with two journalists, Jay Barbree and Howard Benedict, called Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon. Fellow Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton is also named as an author, but he died before the project was completed and was an author in name only. The book generated some controversy for use of a deliberately faked photo showing Shepard hitting a golf ball on the moon (the only other usable photo was a grainy TV videotape), a photo which Barbree re-used in a 2007 memoir. The book was also turned into a TV miniseries in 1994.

Shepard died of leukemia near his home in Pebble Beach, California on July 21, 1998, two years after being diagnosed with that disease. His wife of 53 years, the former Louise Brewer, died five weeks afterward. Both were cremated, and their ashes were committed to the sea.

They had three daughters, Laura (born in 1947), Juliana (born in 1951) and Alice (born in 1951). He also had six grandchildren. Laura had a daughter, Lark and son, Bart. Juliana had a daughter, Ethney and son, Shepard. Alice had a son, Reid, and a daughter, Heather.



  • Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz (ISBN 0-7432-0079-9)

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