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Alan Shepard

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Title: Alan Shepard  
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Subject: Project Mercury, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Apollo 14, Chief of the Astronaut Office
Collection: 1923 Births, 1961 in Spaceflight, 1971 in Spaceflight, 1998 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Businesspeople, Admiral Farragut Academy Alumni, American Astronauts, American Aviators, American Businesspeople, American Christian Scientists, American Engineers, American Military Personnel of World War II, American People of English Descent, American Test Pilots, Apollo Program Astronauts, Aviators from New Hampshire, Cancer Deaths in California, Collier Trophy Recipients, Deaths from Leukemia, Flight Instructors, Mercury Seven, National Aviation Hall of Fame Inductees, Naval War College Alumni, People from Derry, New Hampshire, People Who Have Walked on the Moon, Recipients of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, Recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross (United States), Recipients of the Distinguished Service Medal (United States), Recipients of the Langley Medal, Recipients of the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, Recipients of the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, United States Astronaut Hall of Fame Inductees, United States Naval Academy Alumni, United States Naval Aviators, United States Naval Test Pilot School Alumni, United States Navy Admirals, United States Navy Astronauts, United States Navy Officers, United States Navy Rear Admirals (Lower Half)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Alan Shepard

Alan B. Shepard, Jr.
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Deceased
Born (1923-11-18)November 18, 1923
Derry, New Hampshire, U.S.
Died July 21, 1998(1998-07-21) (aged 74)
Pebble Beach, California, U.S.
Other names
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr.
Other occupation
Naval aviator, test pilot
USNA, B.S. 1944
NWC, M.A. 1957
Rank Rear Admiral, USN
Time in space
9d 00h 57m[1]
Selection 1959 NASA Group 1
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
9 hours 23 minutes
Missions MR-3, Apollo 14
Mission insignia
Retirement August 1, 1974
Navy Distinguished Service Medal

Alan Bartlett "Al" Shepard, Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998), (RADM, USN), was an American naval officer and aviator, test pilot, flag officer, one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts, and businessman, who in 1961 became the second person and the first American to travel into space. This Mercury flight was designed to enter space, but not to achieve orbit. Ten years later, at age 47 and the oldest astronaut in the program, Shepard commanded the Apollo 14 mission, piloting the lander to the most accurate landing of the Apollo missions. He became the fifth and oldest person to walk on the Moon, and the only astronaut of the Mercury Seven to walk on the Moon. During the mission, he hit two golf balls on the lunar surface.

These were his only two space flights, as his flight status was interrupted for five years (1964–69) during the Mercury and Gemini programs by Ménière's disease, an inner-ear disease that was surgically corrected before his Moon flight. Shepard served as Chief of the Astronaut Office from November 1963 – July 1969 (the approximate period of his grounding), and from June 1971 – August 1, 1974 (from his last flight to his retirement). He was promoted from Captain to Rear Admiral on August 25, 1971.[2] He retired from the United States Navy and NASA in 1974.

After leaving NASA, he became a successful businessman. He died of leukemia on July 21, 1998, five weeks before the death of his wife of 53 years.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life and education 1.1
    • Navy service 1.2
    • NASA career 1.3
      • Mercury Seven 1.3.1
      • Project Gemini: Chief astronaut 1.3.2
      • Apollo program 1.3.3
    • Later years 1.4
  • Awards and honors 2
    • Shepard Technology Award 2.1
  • In media 3
  • Physical description 4
  • Gallery 5
  • Books 6
  • References 7
  • Notes 8
  • External links 9


Early life and education

Shepard was born on November 18, 1923, in Derry, New Hampshire, to parents Lieutenant Colonel Alan B. Shepard, Sr. (1891–1973) and Renza (née Emerson) Shepard (1900–1993).[3] He attended primary and secondary schools in East Derry and Derry, including Pinkerton Academy. As a young boy, after helping to clean an aircraft hangar, he was given his first flying lesson by Arnold Sidney Butler, a local owner and operator of the Daniel Webster airport. He graduated from the Admiral Farragut Academy with the class of 1941.

He was active in the Boy Scouts of America. He earned the rank of First Class Scout.[4]

Shepard was one of many famous descendants of Mayflower passenger Richard Warren.[5]

Navy service

Shepard began his navy service after graduation from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1944, and served on the destroyer USS Cogswell while it was deployed in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. He subsequently entered flight training at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, and NAS Pensacola, Florida, and received his Naval Aviator wings in 1947. He was assigned to Fighter Squadron 42 (VF-42) based at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, and NAS Jacksonville, Florida, and served several tours aboard aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea with the squadron.

In 1950, he attended the United States Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station 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 (VF-193) based at NAS 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.

Shepard 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 with a Master of Arts degree in 1957, was 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.

NASA career

Mercury Seven

Shepard in the Freedom 7 capsule before launch

In 1959, Shepard was one of 110 military test pilots selected by their commanding officers as candidates for the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Project Mercury, the first U.S. manned space flight program. Following a gruelling series of physical and psychological tests, NASA selected Shepard to be 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 for October 1960, delays by unplanned preparatory work meant that this was postponed several times, initially to March 6, 1961, and finally to May 5.[7] On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first person in space and to orbit the Earth.

On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 mission and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space.[8]" He was launched by a Redstone rocket, and unlike Gagarin's 108-minute orbital flight, Shepard stayed on a ballistic trajectory—a 15-minute suborbital flight which carried him to an altitude of 116 statute miles (187 km) and to a splashdown point 302 statute miles (486 km) 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 was seen live on television by millions. Shortly before the launch, Shepard said to himself: "Don't fuck up, Shepard ..."[9]

According to Gene Kranz in his book, Failure Is Not an Option, "When reporters asked Shepard what he thought about as he sat atop the Redstone rocket, waiting for liftoff, he had replied, 'The fact that every part of this ship was built by the lowest bidder.'"[10]

Shepard during Freedom 7 flight on May 5, 1961

After a dramatic Atlantic Ocean recovery, Commander Shepard observed, "... didn't really feel the flight was a success until the recovery had been successfully completed. It's not the fall that hurts; it's the sudden stop."[11] After his successful return, Shepard was celebrated as a national hero, honored with parades in Washington, New York and Los Angeles and received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal from President John F. Kennedy.[12]

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. After MR-3, Shepard served as capsule communicator (CAPCOM) for the flights of Grissom and Glenn. He was the back-up pilot for Gordon "Gordo" Cooper for the Mercury-Atlas 9 mission.

Project Gemini: Chief astronaut

After the Mercury-Atlas 10 mission was cancelled, Shepard was designated as the Command Pilot of the first manned Project Gemini mission. Thomas P. Stafford was chosen as his co-pilot. 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. The 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 personnel for crew assignments 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.

During this period, his secretary had several head shot photographs taken of Shepard, posed with various expressions on his face. She would post these on the door to his private office, with a sign which said "Mood of the Day." Visitors could then look at the photo to decide whether it was a good time to talk to him.

Apollo program

Shepard poses next to the American flag on the Moon during Apollo 14
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).

As the oldest astronaut in the program at age 47, Shepard made his second space flight as Commander of Apollo 14 from January 31 – February 9, 1971, America's third successful lunar landing mission. Shepard piloted the 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 a vidicon tube camera. (The color camera on Apollo 12 provided a few brief moments of color telecasting before it was inadvertently pointed at the Sun, ending its usefulness.) While on the Moon, Shepard used a Wilson six-iron head attached to a lunar sample scoop handle[13] to drive golf balls. Despite thick gloves and a stiff spacesuit which forced him to swing the club with one hand, Shepard struck two golf balls; driving the second, as he jokingly put it, "miles and miles and miles."[14]

Following Apollo 14, Shepard returned to his position as Chief of the Astronaut Office in June 1971. He was appointed by President Richard Nixon in July 1971 as a delegate to the 26th United Nations General Assembly, serving from September to December 1971. He was promoted to Rear Admiral by Nixon that same year before retiring both from the Navy and NASA on August 1, 1974.

Later years

Shepard's memorial stone in Derry, New Hampshire; his ashes were scattered at sea

After Shepard left NASA, he served on the boards of many corporations. He also served as [15]

In 1984, he and the other surviving Mercury astronauts, along with Betty Grissom, the widow of astronaut Gus Grissom, founded the Mercury Seven Foundation to raise money for scholarships for science and engineering students in college. In 1995, the organization was renamed the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Shepard was elected president and chairman of the foundation, posts he held until October 1997, when he turned over both positions to former astronaut James Lovell.[16]

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.[17] The book generated some controversy for use of a staged photo purportedly showing Shepard hitting a golf ball on the Moon.[14] The book was also turned into a TV miniseries in 1994.[18]

Shepard died of [15]

They had three daughters, Laura (born July 2, 1947), Juliana (born March 16, 1951), and Alice (born in 1951). Alice was Louise's niece, but raised as their own daughter.[20] Shepard also had six grandchildren.

Awards and honors

Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy Astronaut Wings
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross Combat Action Ribbon
with one star
Congressional Space Medal of Honor
NASA Distinguished Service Medal
with one star
NASA Exceptional Service Medal Presidential Unit Citation
American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
with four stars
Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal Navy Occupation Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
with one star
Korean Service Medal
with one star
Presidential Unit Citation
Presidential Unit Citation
(South Korea)
United Nations Korea Medal Philippine Defense Medal
Philippine Liberation Medal
with two stars
Korean War Service Medal Navy Rifle Marksmanship

with Expert Marksman Device

Shepard also received the Langley Gold Medal (highest award of the Smithsonian Institution for Aeronautics and Astronautics) on May 5, 1964; the Lambert trophy; the SETP Iven C. Kincheloe Award; the Cabot Award; the Collier Trophy; and the City of New York Gold Medal for 1971.

He was awarded an Honorary Master of Arts degree from Dartmouth College in 1962, an Honorary D.Sc. from Miami University in 1971, and an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Franklin Pierce College in 1972.[21]

In 1962 he was elected as an honorary member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati.

Shepard was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1977.[22]

He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 11, 1990.[23]

In Hampton, Virginia, a road is named Commander Shepard Boulevard in his honor.

The Navy named a supply ship, USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE-3), for him in 2006. A geodesic dome was built in his honor in Virginia Beach, Virginia, but was demolished in 1994.[24]

A Redstone missile, from which the Redstone booster used to launch Shepard aboard Freedom 7 was derived, is on display in the Warren, New Hampshire town square.

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, New Hampshire is named after Shepard and Christa McAuliffe.

Interstate 93 in New Hampshire, from the Massachusetts border to its intersection with the F.E. Everett Turnpike (which is also the northern terminus of Interstate 293) in Hooksett, is named in his honor. It passes through his native Derry (however with no junctions) for a short distance before entering Londonderry to the north and Windham to the south. Additionally, Interstate 565 in northern Alabama connecting Decatur and Huntsville is officially the Admiral Alan B. Shepard Highway.

His hometown of Derry has the nickname Space Town in honor of his career as an astronaut.[25] Following an act of Congress,[26] 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.[27] 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. Its television news show is called NASA – News About Shepard Astros.

Other schools that 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, Alan B. Shepard Elementary Long Grove, Iowa, and formerly, Alan B. Shepard Elementary School in Highland Park, Illinois (closed).

Alan Shepard Park in Cocoa Beach, Florida, a beach-side park south of Cape Canaveral, is named in his honor.[28]

In a 2010 Space Foundation survey, Shepard was ranked as the ninth most popular space hero (tied with astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Gus Grissom).[29]

In 2011, NASA honored Shepard with an Ambassador of Exploration Award, consisting of a Moon rock encased in Lucite, for his contributions to the U.S. space program. His family members accepted the award on his behalf during a ceremony on April 28 at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland, where it is on permanent display.[30]

On May 4, 2011, the U.S. Postal Service issued a first-class stamp in Shepard's honor, the first U.S. stamp to depict a specific astronaut. The first day of issue ceremony was held at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.[31]

Shepard Technology Award

Each year, the Space Foundation, in partnership with the Astronauts Memorial Foundation and NASA, present the Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award for outstanding contributions by K–12 educators or district-level administrators to educational technology. The award recognizes excellence in the development and application of technology in the classroom or to the professional development of teachers. The recipient demonstrates exemplary use of technology either to foster lifelong learners or to make the learning process easier.

In media

Physical description

  • Weight: 170 lb (77 kg)
  • Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
  • Hair: Brown
  • Eyes: Blue


Shepard receiving the NASA Distinguished Service Medal from President John F. Kennedy in 1961 
Shepard as Mercury astronaut in 1963 
Shepard at Houston's Mission Control during Gemini 6 in 1965 
Shepard (right) with Apollo 14 crewmate Ed Mitchell in 1970 
Shepard in 1970 
Video image of Shepard hitting a golf ball on the Moon during Apollo 14 in 1971 


  • Shepard, Alan B.;  


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ "Astronaut Bio: Alan B. Shepard, Jr. 7/98".  
  2. ^ "Alan Shepard Becomes Admiral".  
  3. ^ Al Shepard's parents
  4. ^ Alan B. Shepard, Jr. at
  5. ^ "Mayflower-L archives".   Email from Susan E. Roser. Subject: Fw: [MFLR] Alan B. Shepard Jr. - Warren Descendant. Date: Sat, 23 Feb 2002 09:36:09 -0500.
  6. ^ Alan Shepard at New Mexico Museum of Space History
  7. ^ Swenson et al. 1989
  8. ^ Swenson et al. 1989, Chapter 11.4: "Shepard's Ride"
  9. ^ Shepard & Slayton 1994, p. 111
  10. ^ Kranz 2000
  11. ^ "Events of 1961: U.S. in Space".  
  12. ^ As World Watched. Spaceman Hailed After U.S. Triumph, 1961/05/08 (1961) (Motion picture).  
  13. ^ "Apollo 14". Apollo to the Moon. Washington, D.C.:  
  14. ^ a b Jones, Eric M., ed. (1995). "EVA-2 Closeout and the Golf Shots". Apollo 14 Lunar Surface Journal. NASA. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Alan B. Shepard, Jr.". Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Retrieved August 15, 2013.  Shepard biography on the official website of the Mercury 7 astronauts, United States Astronaut Hall of Fame.
  16. ^ Founding of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation
  17. ^ Shepard & Slayton 1994
  18. ^ Drew, Mike (July 11, 1994). "TBS' 'Moon Shot' Rises Above Other TV Fare".  
  19. ^ Stillwater Cove, Del Monte Forest, California
  20. ^ Thompson 2004
  21. ^ Al Shepard's awards and honors
  22. ^ "National Aviation Hall of fame: Our Enshrinees".  
  23. ^ Alan Shepard inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
  24. ^ Goldfarb, Greg (October 14, 1994). "Dome's memory will linger as a monument several activities are planned to honor the beach's now-razed former civic center".  
  25. ^ "Derry, NH". Union Leader Corp. Archived from the original on August 30, 2010. Retrieved August 24, 2010. 
  26. ^ "H.R.4517".  
  27. ^ Gray, Tara. "Alan B. Shepard, Jr.". 40th Anniversary of the Mercury 7. NASA History Program Office. Archived from the original on December 8, 2006. Retrieved December 29, 2006. 
  28. ^ "Cocoa Beach Review".  
  29. ^ "Space Foundation Survey Reveals Broad Range of Space Heroes; Early Astronauts Still the Most Inspirational" (Press release). Colorado Springs, CO:  
  30. ^ Mirelson, Doc (April 19, 2011). "NASA Honors Pioneer Astronaut Alan Shepard With Moon Rock" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: NASA. Media Advisory: M11-077. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  31. ^  
  32. ^ Marriott 1992, p. 23


  • Marriott, John (1992). Thunderbirds Are Go!. Foreword by  
  • Swenson, Loyd S., Jr.; Grimwood, James M.; Alexander, Charles C. (1989) [Originally published 1966]. This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury. The NASA History Series. Washington, D.C.: NASA.  

External links

  • Official NASA biography for 40th Anniversary of Mercury 7
  • Official NASA short biography
  • "Alan B. Shepard Jr. Is Dead at 74; First American to Travel in Space" Obituary by John Noble Wilford, The New York Times, July 23, 1998
  • Alan Shepard – The Daily Telegraph obituary, July 23, 1998
  • Alan Shepard: 1st American in Space at the Wayback Machine (archived May 27, 2010) – slideshow by Life magazine
  • Iven C. Kincheloe Awards
  • About Alan Shepard
  • Shepard at Spaceacts
  • Shepard at Encyclopedia of Science
  • Alan Shepard at the Internet Movie Database
  • Alan Shepard at the National Aviation Hall of Fame
  • Shepard at International Space Hall of Fame
  • Astronautix biography of Alan Shepard
  • Spacefacts biography of Alan Shepard
  • Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. at Find a Grave
Preceded by
Office Created

(informally: Deke Slayton)

Chief of the Astronaut Office
Succeeded by
John W. Young
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