Alan Shepard (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Shepard flew the first U.S. manned space flight in 1961 and became the only Mercury astronaut to walk on the Moon.
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., was born to Colonel Alan B. Shepard and his wife in East Derry, Hew Hampshire. After attending primary school in East Derry, Shepard graduated from Pinkerton Academy in Derry. He spent a year studying at Admiral Farragut Academy in Toms River, New Jersey, prior to his acceptance into the United States Naval Academy. After several years of distinguished military service, Shepard studied at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, graduating in 1958.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), created on October 1, 1958, received primary authority for Project Mercury, which attempted to send the first humans into space. As a result, astronauts were required. Military service files of test pilots were studied, invitations for application were sent, and NASA accumulated a large set of candidates. Following rigorous medical examinations, psychological tests, and personal interviews, seven individuals were selected as the original Mercury astronauts. Alan Shepard was among that select group.
NASA announced on February 22, 1961, that three astronauts—John Glenn, Gus Grissom, and Alan Shepard—had been selected to train for the first suborbital Mercury flight. Which astronaut would make that first flight was not...
(The entire section is 1997 words.)
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Shepard, Alan B. (1923-1998) (World of Earth Science)
One of the original seven American astronauts, Alan B. Shepard, Jr. became the first American to venture into space in a suborbital flight aboard the Mercury capsule, Freedom 7. His achievementsncluding his landmark Freedom 7 flight on May 5, 1961ymbolized the beginning of a technological revolution in the 1960s and marked the onset of "new frontiers" in space. A decade later, he commanded the Apollo 14 lunar mission, becoming the fifth man to step on the Moon's surface and the only one of the original astronauts to make a flight to the Moon. In addition to his space flight accomplishments, Shepard served as Chief of the Astronaut Office and participated in the overall astronaut-training program. He received the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) Distinguished Service Medal from President John F. Kennedy for his Mercury flight. In 1971, appointed by President Nixon, he served as a delegate to the 26th United Nations General Assembly. He was promoted to rear admiral by the Navy in 1971, the first astronaut to achieve flag rank. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Medal of Honor for gallantry in the astronaut corps.
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. was born in East Derry, New Hampshire, and spent most of his formative years in this New England setting. The son of a career military manis father was an Army colonelhepard showed a strong interest at an early age for mechanical things, disassembling motors and engines and building model airplanes. He attended primary school in East Derry and received his secondary education from Pinkerton Academy in Derry in 1940. During high school, he did odd jobs at the local airport hangar in exchange for a chance to take airplane rides. There was little doubt in the family that Shepard would pursue a military career, and after completing a year's study at Admiral Farragut Academy in New Jersey, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1944 with a B.S. in science. Shepard married Louise Brewer of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; the couple eventually had two daughters.
Shepard's flying career began in 1947 after he served aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Cogzwell in the Pacific during the last year of World War II. He received flight training at both Corpus Christi, Texas, and Pensacola, Florida, receiving his wings in 1947. Between the years 1947 and 1950, he served with Fighter Squadron 42 at bases in Virginia and Florida, completing two cruises aboard carriers in the Mediterranean. In 1950, as a lieutenant, junior grade, he was selected to attend U.S. Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River in Maryland, serving two years in flight test work at that station. During those tours, he participated in high-altitude tests and experiments in the development of the Navy's in-flight refueling system. He was project test pilot on the F.S.D. Skylancer and was involved in testing the first angled deck on a U.S. Navy carrier. During his second tour to Patuxent for flight test work, the navy sent him to the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Upon graduation he became a staff officer at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters in Norfolk, in charge of aircraft readiness for the fleet. Being skipper of an aircraft squadron was a goal of any career pilot in the Navy and one that was of interest to Shepard. About this same time, NASA was developing Project Mercury and was seeking astronauts for America's space program.
Knowing that he met the required qualifications of NASA's advertised program, Shepard eagerly applied for a chance to serve his country and meet the challenge of the race to space. On April 27, 1959, NASA announced that Shepard and six other astronauts were selected as the first class of astronauts. A rigorous and intensive training program followed as preparations were being made for the first manned space flight. With the Russian space program forging ahead, it was imperative that a U.S. astronaut follow cosmonaut Yury Gagarin into space as soon as possible. Three astronautsShepard, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, and John Glennere selected to make three sub-orbital "up-and-down" missions to ready Mercury for orbital flight. Interest in the first manned American space flight was keen, forcing NASA to keep Shepard's identity secret until three days before the launch. At 9:45 A.M. on May 5th, 1961, Shepard, enclosed in the tiny bell-shaped Mercury capsule named Freedom 7, was thrust into space by a Redstone rocket to a distance of 2300 miles and a height of 113 miles above the surface of the Earth. The flight lasted only 15 minutes and 22 seconds and traveled at a speed of 5,180 mph. According to Space Almanac, Shepard, reporting from space that everything was "AOK," was in free-fall just five minutes before splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S.S. Lake Champlain spotted his orange and white parachute 297 miles downrange from Cape Canaveral. Just before landing, the heat shield was dropped 4 feet, pulling out a rubberized landing bag designed to reduce shock. Shepard exclaimed "Boy what a ride," according to Tim Furniss in Manned Spaceflight Log, and with that successful, text-book perfect launch, NASA's space program gained support from the government and from people around the world.
Shepard's performance also showed the world the tradition of engineering excellence, professionalism and dedication that was evident in the subsequent missions. About ten weeks after this historic flight another Mercury-Redstone blasted Virgil Grissom's spacecraft for a similar flight. Shepard continued his training and space preparation and was selected for one of the early Gemini flights, but in early 1964, his career was sharply changed by an innerar ailment called Meniere's syndrome, which causes an imbalance and a gradual degradation of hearing. The Navy doctors would not let Shepard fly solo in jet planes, which forced NASA to ground him. The offer of a job as Chief of the Astronaut office with NASA came along about this time, and it helped allay some of the intense disappointment that Shepard experienced. As Chief, Shepard was in charge of all phases of the astronaut-training program and played an influential role in the selection of crews for upcoming missions. Periodic checks on his condition during this time showed a continued loss of hearing on the left side, and in May 1968, he submitted to an experimental operation to insert a plastic tube to relieve the pressure in his inner ear. After waiting six months for the final results of the operation, Shepard was declared by NASA officials and doctors fully fit to fly and to resume his role in the space flight program.
Shepard worked hard and long to ready himself for his next space endeavor, Apollo 14, which would last nine days and send a crew of three to the moon. The crew for this flight, Shepard as mission commander, Stuart Roosa as Command module pilot, and Edgar Mitchell as pilot of the lunar excursion module, was chosen in August 1969, just after the successful moon landing by Apollo 11. The mission was tentatively scheduled for an October 1970, launch date, but the explosion of the oxygen tank aboard Apollo 13 called for several alterations in the Apollo 14 spacecraft. One of the goals of this flight was to explore the Fra Mauro region of the Moon, and Shepard and Mitchell each spent more than 300 hours walking in desert areas and using simulators that resembled the lunar surface. A Saturn V rocket launched the Apollo 14 capsule at 4:03 p.m. on January 3l, 1971. The astronauts had chosen the name Kitty Hawk as a tribute to the first manned powered flight in 1903, and named the lunar lander Antares for the star on which it would orient itself just before descending to the Fra Mauro landing site. Apollo 14 entered lunar orbit on February 4, with touchdown in the uplands of the cone crater scheduled for the next day. Shepard and Mitchell departed from Kitty Hawk in Antares and descended smoothly to the surface, coming to rest on an 8 degree slope. Shepard descended the lander's ladder, stepping on the moon at 9:53 A.M., February 5, becoming the fifth man to walk on the moon. With much emotion, he reported to Houston, "I'm on the surface. It's been a long way, and I'm here," as quoted by Anthony J. Cipriano in America's Journeys into Space. He and Mitchell then collected 43 pounds of lunar samples and deployed TV, communications and scientific equipment in their first extra vehicular activity (EVA), which lasted 4 hours, 49 minutes. Their second EVA lasted 4 hours, 35 minutes, and the two astronauts used a Modularized Equipment Transporter for this landing. It was a rickshaw-like device in which they pulled their tools, cameras and samples with them across the moon. Shepard and Mitchell set off the first two moonquakes to be read by seismic monitors planted by earlier Apollo moonwalkers. As they prepared to leave the lunar surface in Antares, Shepard, an avid golfer, surprised his audience by making the first golf shot on the Moon, rigging a 6-iron club head to the end of a digging tool and hitting a ball hundreds of yards. On February 6, Kitty Hawk rocketed out of lunar orbit and headed for Earth. After nearly three days of coasting flight, Apollo 14 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, 4.6 miles from the recovery vessel New Orleans, on February 916 hours, 42 minutes after launch.
At Shepard's retirement from NASA and the U.S. Navy on August 1, 1974, Dr. James C. Fletcher, NASA Administrator, praised the astronaut's dedication and determination in a NASA News bulletin. "Al Shepard was the first American to make a space flight and his determination to overcome a physical ailment after his suborbital mission carried him to a highly successful manned lunar landing mission." Shepard joined the private sector as partner and chairman of the Marathon Construction Company of Houston, Texas. He became a successful businessman in Houston, pursuing interests as a commercial property developer, a venture capital group partner, and director of mutual fund companies. He also chaired the board of the Mercury Seven Foundation, created by the six living Mercury Seven astronauts and Grissom's widow to raise money for science and engineering scholarships. The Mercury capsule Freedom 7 is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Apollo 14 command module Kitty Hawk is displayed at the Los Angeles County Museum in California. Shepard died in Houston at the age of 74.
See also Spacecraft, manned