Alan Shepard : biography
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) was an American naval aviator, test pilot, flag officer, NASA astronaut, 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 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 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 (approximately the 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.The Associated Press "Alan Shepard Becomes Admiral" (August 26, 1971) The Toledo Blade, p. 12 He retired from the U.S. Navy and NASA in 1974.
After leaving NASA he became a successful businessman. He died of leukemia in 1998, five weeks before the death of his wife of 53 years. They were survived by their three daughters.
Shepard was born in Derry, New Hampshire to Lieutenant Colonel Alan B. Shepard, Sr. and Renza (née Emerson) Shepard. 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 one of many famous descendants of Mayflower passenger Richard Warren.
He is of Albanian origin. He completed the Naval Academy in Anapolis where he completed a flying school for non-military pilots. Later he also completed the Marine School for pilots in Patuxent, Maryland, as well as the Naval School of War in New Port, Rhode Island on 1958. On 1961, the Russian Yuri Gagarin was the World’s first man to be lifted into space. He flied in space as a passenger, while Shepard piloted the space craft during the Apolo 14 mission on January-February 1971. As an astronaut, he was the first American to fly in space, and the fifth to have set foot on the Moon. Before retiring, Shepard was promoted to Admiral. He died on 21 July 1998; thus living to the age of 75.
Shepard began his naval career after graduation from the United States Naval Academy 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 Corpus Christi, Texas and Pensacola, Florida, and received his Naval Aviator wings in 1947. He was assigned to Fighter Squadron 42 (VF-42) based at Norfolk, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida, and served several tours aboard aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea with the squadron.
In 1950, he attended the U.S. 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 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.