Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr.
(November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) (Rear Admiral, United States Navy, Ret.) was the second
person and the first American in
He later commanded the Apollo
mission, and was the fifth person to walk on the
Shepard, who was born in East Derry, New Hampshire to Lt. Colonel
Alan B. Shepard Sr and Renza (Emerson) Shepard, began
his naval career after graduation
from the United States Naval Academy in 1944, on the destroyer
deployed in the Pacific
Ocean during World War
II. He subsequently entered flight training at
Texas and Pensacola, Florida, and received his wings in 1947.
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
He returned to Patuxent for a second tour of duty and engaged in
flight testing the F3H Demon
, F8U Crusader
, and F11F Tiger
. He was also
project test pilot on the F5D
, and his last five months at Patuxent were spent as
an instructor in the Test Pilot School. He later attended the
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
Shepard was one of 110 military test pilots invited by the newly
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
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 5, 1961.On April 12, 1961,
Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first person to orbit the
On May 5,
1961, Shepard piloted the Freedom 7
mission and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space.
Alan Shepard in Freedom 7 capsule
He was launched by a
108 minute 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
. 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
, honored with parades in
Washington, New York and Los Angeles and meeting President John F.
Shortly before the launch, Shepard said to himself: "Don't fuck up,
Shepard..." This quote was reported as "Dear Lord, please don't let
me fuck up" in The Right Stuff
, though Shepard confirmed
this as a misquote. Regardless, the latter quote has since become
known among aviators as "Shepard's Prayer."
According to Gene Kranz
in his book
Failure Is Not an
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
for the MA-9
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
was picked as his co-pilot. But in early 1964, Shepard
was diagnosed with Ménière's
, 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
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.
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
and command module pilot Stuart Roosa
) swapped missions with the then
crew of Apollo 14 (James Lovell
, Ken Mattingly
At age 47, and the oldest astronaut in the program, Shepard made
his second space flight as commander of Apollo
, 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
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 with a six iron, 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
retiring both from the Navy and NASA on August 1, 1974.
Awards and honors
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
Shepard was appointed by President
in July 1971 as a delegate to the 26th United Nations General
, and served through the entire assembly session from
September to December 1971.
The Navy named a supply ship, Alan Shepard
, for him
in 2006. A geodesic dome
was built in his honor in Virginia Beach, Virginia but demolished in 1994 .
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.
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'.
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
Alan B. Shepard High School, in Palos
Heights, Illinois, which opened in 1976, was named in his
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
the yearbook is entitled Odyssey
. The television news show
is called NASA - News About Shepard Astros
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.
School in Highland Park, Illinois (closed).
Shepard Park in Cocoa Beach, Florida, a beach-side park just south of the Kennedy Space
Center where Shepard launched from, is named in his
Shepard Technology in Education Award, which recognizes outstanding
contributions by K-12 educators and district-level personnel in the
field of educational technology, is presented annually by the
Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF) in partnership with the
Space Foundation and NASA.
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
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, 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). Alice was Louise's niece, but
raised as their own daughter. 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.
He was also one of many famous descendants of Mayflower
passenger Richard Warren
year, the Space Foundation, in
partnership with the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF) and
NASA, present the Alan Shepard Technology in Education
Award for outstanding contributions made by K-12 educators or
district-level administrators to educational technology.
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. Recipients include:
- 2009 Ricardo V. Soria;
- 2008 Kevin L. Simmons;
- 2007 Luther W. Richardson;
- 2006 Kathy R. Brandon;
- 2005 Ronald F. Dantowitz;
- 2004 Charles Geach;
- 2003 Brian Copes;
- 2002 Thomas F. Hunt, Frank E. Waller;
- 2001 Lori Byrnes;
- Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Moon Shot.
Ch.9, P.111. Turner Publishing, Atlanta. 1994. ISBN 1-878685-54-6
- Wolfe, Tom,
The Right Stuff. Ch.10 P.245
1979. ISBN 0374250332.
- Neal Thompson, Light This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan
Shepard—America's First Spaceman. Crown, 2004
- Kranz, Gene. Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from
Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. ISBN 0-7432-0079-9.