Alan Shepard

For other uses, see Alan Shepard (disambiguation).
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
United States Naval Academy (B.S., 1944)
Naval War College (M.A., 1957)
Rank Rear Admiral, USN
Time in space
9d 00h 57m
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
Awards Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross
Congressional Space Medal of Honor
NASA Distinguished Service Medal (2)
NASA Exceptional Service Medal

Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett "Al" Shepard Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) was an American naval officer and aviator, test pilot, one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts, and businessman, who in May 1961 made the first manned Mercury flight. Shepard's craft entered space, but did not achieve orbit. He became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space, and the first person to manually control the orientation of his spacecraft.

Ten years later, at age 47 and the oldest astronaut in the program, Shepard commanded the Apollo 14 mission (1971), piloting the lander Antares to the most accurate landing of the Apollo missions. He became the fifth and oldest person to walk on the Moon, and the only one of the Mercury Seven to do so. 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 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 to July 1969 (the approximate period of his grounding), and from June 1971 to August 1, 1974 (from his last flight to his retirement). He was promoted to rear admiral on August 25, 1971, the first astronaut to reach that rank. He retired from the United States Navy and NASA in 1974.

Early life and education

Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. was born on November 18, 1923, in Derry, New Hampshire,[1] the oldest of two children of Alan B. Shepard Sr. and Pauline Renza Shepard (née Emerson).[2] He was one of many famous descendants of Mayflower passenger Richard Warren.[3][2] Alan B. Shepard Sr., known as Bart, worked in the Derry National Bank, owned by Shepard's grandfather. He joined the National Guard in 1915 and served in France with the American Expeditionary Force during World War I.[4] He remained in the National Guard between the wars, and was recalled to active duty during World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.[5] Shepard had a younger sister, Pauline, who was known as Polly.[6]

Shepard initially attended Adams School. He skipped the sixth grade,[7] proceeding to middle school at Oak Street School in Derry,[5] where he skipped the eighth grade as well.[7] He completed years 9 to 12 at the Pinkerton Academy, a private school in Derry that his father had attended.[7] He was fascinated by flight, and created a model airplane club at the Academy, and his Christmas present in 1938 was a flight in a Douglas DC-3.[8] The following year he began cycling out to Manchester Airport, where he would do odd jobs in exchange for the occasional ride in an airplane or informal flying lesson.[9][10]

With World War II approaching, Shepard's father wanted him to join the Army, but Shepard chose the Navy instead. In 1940, he easily passed the entrance exam to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, but at sixteen was too young to enter that year. Instead, the Navy sent him to the Admiral Farragut Academy, a prep school for the Naval Academy, from which he graduated with the class of 1941.[11] Tests administered at Farragut indicated an IQ of 145.[12]

At Annapolis, Shepard enjoyed aquatic sports. He was a keen and competitive sailor, winning a number of races, including a regatta held by the Annapolis Yacht Club. He learned to sail all the different types of boats the Academy owned, up to and including the USS Freedom, a 90-foot (27 m) schooner. He also participated in swimming, and row with the eight.[13] During his Christmas break in 1942, he went to Principia College to be with his sister, who was unable to go home due to wartime travel restrictions. There he met Louise Brewer, whose parents were pensioners on the du Pont family estate, and, like Renza Shepard, were devout Christian Scientists.[14] Due to the war, the usual four-year course at Annapolis was cut short by a year, and he graduated and was commissioned as an Ensign on June 6, 1944, ranked 463rd in his class of 915. The following month he became secretly engaged to Louise Brewer.[15]

Navy service

"You know, being a test pilot isn't always the healthiest business in the world."

—Shepard's description of his test pilot career.[16]

After a month of classroom instruction in aviation,[17] Shepard was posted to a destroyer, USS Cogswell, it being the US Navy's policy that aviation candidates should first have some service at sea.[9] At the time it was deployed on active service in the Pacific Ocean. Shepard joined it when it returned to the naval base at Ulithi on 30 October.[18] After just two days at sea Cogswell helped rescue 172 sailors from the cruiser USS Reno, which had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, then escorted the crippled ship back to Ulithi. The ship was buffeted by Typhoon Cobra in December 1944, a storm in which three other destroyers went down, and battled kamikazes in the invasion of Lingayen Gulf in January 1945.[19]

Cogswell returned to the United States for an overhaul in February 1945, and Shepard was given three weeks' leave. He and Louise decided to marry before he had to return. They were married on March 3, 1945, in St. Stephen's Lutheran Church in Wilmington, Delaware. His father, Bart, served as his best man. They had only a brief time together before Shepard rejoined Cogswell at the Long Beach Navy Yard on April 5, 1945.[20] After the war, they had two children, both daughters: Laura, born in 1947,[21] and Julie, born in 1951.[22] Following the death of Louise's sister in 1956, they raised her niece, Judith, whom they renamed Alice to avoid confusion with Julie, as their own, although they never adopted her.[23] They eventually had six grandchildren.[24]

On Shepard's second cruise with Cogswell he was appointed a gunnery officer, responsible for the 20 mm and 40 mm antiaircraft guns on the ship's bow. They engaged kamikazes in the Battle of Okinawa, where the ship served in the dangerous role of a radar picket. The job of the radar pickets was to warn the fleet of incoming kamikazes; but because they were often the first ships sighted by incoming Japanese aircraft, they were also the most likely ships to be attacked. Cogswell performed this duty from 27 May 1945 until 26 June, when it rejoined Task Force 38. The ship also participated in the Allied naval bombardments of Japan, and was present in Tokyo Bay for the Surrender of Japan in September 1945. Shepard returned to the United States later that month.[25][18]

Shepard as a student aviator in 1946

In November 1945, Shepard arrived at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas, where he commenced basic flight training on January 7, 1946.[26] He was an average student, and for a time faced being "bilged" (dropped) from flight training and reassigned to the surface navy. To make up for this he took private lessons at a local civilian flying school—something the Navy frowned on—earning a civil pilot's license.[27] His flying skills gradually improved, and by early 1947 his instructors rated him above average. He was sent to Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida for advanced training. His final test was six perfect landings on the carrier USS Saipan. The following day he received his Naval Aviator wings, which his proud father pinned on his chest.[28]

Shepard was assigned to Fighter Squadron 42 (VF-42), flying the F4U Corsair. The squadron was nominally based on the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, but it was being overhauled at the time Shepard arrived, and in the meantime the squadron was based at Naval Air Station Norfolk in Virginia. He departed on his first cruise, of the Caribbean, with it in 1948. Most of the aviators were, like Shepard, on their first assignment. Those that were not were given the opportunity to qualify for night landings on a carrier, a dangerous maneuver, especially in a Corsair, which had to bank sharply on approach. Shepard managed to persuade his squadron commander to allow him to qualify as well. After briefly returning to Norfolk, the carrier set out on a nine-month tour of the Mediterranean Sea. He earned a reputation for carousing and chasing women. He also instituted a ritual of, whenever he could, calling Louise at 17:00 (her time).[29]

Normally sea duty alternated with periods of duty ashore. In 1950, Shepard was selected to attend the United States Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.[30] 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 Banshee; and Navy trials of the first angled carrier deck.[31] He narrowly avoided being court-martialed by the station commander, Rear Admiral Alfred M. Pride after looping the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and making low passes over the beach at Ocean City, Maryland, and the base; but Shepard's superiors, John Hyland and Robert M. Elder, interceded on his behalf.[32]

Shepard's 105th F4U sortie on USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42)

Fighter Squadron 193 (VF-193), based at Naval Air Station Moffett Field, California, was a night fighter unit flying F2H Banshee jets. The squadron was part of James D. "Jig Dog" Ramage's Air Group 19. Naval aviators with experience in jet aircraft were still relatively rare, and Ramage specifically requested Shepard's assignment on the advice of Elder, who commanded VF-193's sister squadron, VF-191. Ramage made Shepard his own wingman,[33] a decision that would save his life in 1954, when Ramage's oxygen system failed, and Shepard talked him through a landing.[34] As operations officer of this squadron, Shepard's most important job was imparting his knowledge of flying jets to his fellow aviators to keep them alive. He made two tours to the western Pacific on board the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany. It set out a combat tour off Korea in 1953, during the Korean War, but the Korean Armistice Agreement ended the fighting in July 1953, and Shepard did not see combat.[35]

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.[36] At one point he was forced to bail out of a Vought F7U Cutlass. In 1957, he was project test pilot on the F5D Skylancer. Shepard did not like the plane, and his unfavorable report killed the project. His last five months at Patuxent were spent as an instructor in the Test Pilot School. He then attended the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island,[37] and, upon graduating in 1957, was assigned to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, as Aircraft Readiness Officer.[38] By this time he had logged more than 3,600 hours of flying time, including 1,700 hours in jets.[39]

NASA career

Mercury Seven

Main article: Mercury Seven
The Mercury Seven astronauts with a USAF F-106. From left to right: M. Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil I. Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Alan B. Shepard Jr., and Donald K. Slayton.

In 1959, the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) received permission from President Dwight D. Eisenhower to recruit its first astronauts from the ranks of military test pilots. The service records of 508 graduates of test pilot schools were obtained from the Department of Defense. From these, 110 were found that matched the minimum standards.[40] These included being less than 40 years old, with a bachelor's degree or equivalent, and no taller than 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m). While there was flexibility with some requirements, the height requirement was firm, owing to the size of the Project Mercury spacecraft.[41] The 110 were then split into three groups, with the most promising candidates in the first group.[42]

The first group of 35, which included Shepard, assembled at the Pentagon on February 2, 1959. The Navy and Marine Corps officers were welcomed by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Arleigh Burke, while the United States Air Force officers were addressed by the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Thomas D. White. Both pledged their support to the Space Program, and promised that the careers of volunteers would not be adversely affected. NASA officials then briefed them on Project Mercury. They conceded that it would be a hazardous undertaking, but emphasised that it was of great national importance. That evening, Shepard discussed the day's events with fellow naval aviators Jim Lovell, Pete Conrad and Wally Schirra. All were concerned about their careers, but decided to volunteer.[43][44]

The briefing process was repeated with a second group of 34 candidates a week later. Of the 69, six were found to be over the height limit, 15 were eliminated for other reasons, and 16 declined. This left NASA with 32 candidates. Since this was more than expected, it was decided not only to not bother with the remaining candidates, but to select six astronauts instead of the twelve originally planned. Then came a grueling series of physical and psychological tests at the Lovelace Clinic and the Wright Aerospace Medical Laboratory.[45] Only one candidate, Lovell, was eliminated on medical grounds at this stage, and the diagnosis was later found to be in error.[46]

Shepard was informed of his selection on April 1, 1959. Two days later he headed up to Boston with Louise for the wedding of his cousin Alice, and was able to break the news to his parents and sister.[47][48] The identities of the seven were made public at a press conference at Dolley Madison House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 1959:[49] Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton.[45] The enormity of the challenge ahead of them was made clear a few weeks later, on the night of May 18, 1959, when the seven astronauts gathered at Cape Canaveral to watch their first rocket launch, of an SM-65D Atlas similar to the one that was to carry them into orbit. A few minutes after lift off, it spectacularly exploded, lighting up the night sky. The astronauts were stunned. Shepard turned to Glenn and said: "Well, I'm glad they got that out of the way."[50]

Freedom 7

Main article: Mercury-Redstone 3

Faced with intense competition from the other astronauts, particularly John Glenn, Shepard quit smoking, and adopted Glenn's habit of taking a morning jog, although he did not go so far as to give up the cocktails or the philandering.[51] On January 19, 1961, Robert R. Gilruth, the director of NASA's Space Task Group, informed the seven astronauts that Shepard had been chosen for the first American manned mission into space.[52] Shepard later recalled Louise's response when he told her that she had her arms around the man who would be the first man in space: "Who let a Russian in here?"[53] During training he flew 120 simulated flights.[54] Although his flight was originally scheduled for April 26, 1960,[55] delays by unplanned preparatory work meant that this was postponed several times, initially to December 5, 1960, then mid-January 1961,[56] March 6, 1961,[57] April 25, 1961,[58] May 2, 1961, and finally to May 5, 1961.[59] On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first person in space, and the first to orbit the Earth. When reporters rang Shorty Powers for a comment at 4am, he memorably replied: "We're all asleep down here".[60]

Shepard in the Freedom 7 capsule before launch

On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space.[61] He named his spacecraft, Mercury Spacecraft 7, Freedom 7.[57] It was launched by a Redstone rocket, and unlike Gagarin's 108-minute orbital flight in a Vostok spacecraft three times the size of a Mercury capsule,[60] Shepard stayed on a ballistic trajectory for a 15-minute sub-orbital 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.[62] Shortly before the launch, Shepard said to himself: "Don't mess up, Shepard ..."[63] Unlike Gagarin, whose flight was strictly automatic, Shepard had some control of Freedom 7, spacecraft attitude in particular.[64] Shepard's launch was seen live on television by millions.[65] 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.'[66]

Helicopter picking up Alan Shepard inside the space capsule, 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."[67] Splashdown occurred with an impact comparable to landing a jet aircraft on an aircraft carrier. A recovery helicopter arrived after a few minutes, and the capsule was lifted partly out of the water to allow Shepard to leave by the main hatch. He squeezed out of the door and into a sling hoist, and was pulled into the helicopter, which flew both the astronaut and spacecraft to the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain. The whole recovery process took just eleven minutes.[68] Shepard was celebrated as a national hero, honored with ticker-tape parades in Washington, New York and Los Angeles, and received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal from President John F. Kennedy.[69] He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[70]

Shepard served as capsule communicator (CAPCOM) for Glenn's Mercury-Atlas 6 orbital flight, which he had also been considered for,[71] and Carpenter's Mercury-Atlas 7.[72] He was the backup pilot for Cooper for the Mercury-Atlas 9 mission,[73] nearly replacing Cooper after Cooper flew low over the NASA administration building at Cape Canaveral in an F-106.[74] In the final stages of Project Mercury, Shepard was scheduled to pilot the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10), which was planned as a three-day mission.[75] He named Mercury Spacecraft 15B Freedom 7 II in honor of his first spacecraft,[76] but on June 12, 1963, NASA Administrator James E. Webb announced that Mercury had accomplished all its goals, and no more missions would be flown.[75] Shepard went as far as making a personal appeal to President Kennedy, but to no avail.[77]

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, with Thomas P. Stafford chosen as his Pilot.[78] In late 1963, Shepard began to experience episodes of extreme dizziness and nausea, accompanied by a loud, clanging noise in the left ear. He tried to keep it secret, fearing that he would lose his flight status, but was aware that if an episode occurred in the air or in space it could be fatal. Following an episode during a lecture in Houston, where he had recently moved from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Shepard was forced to confess his ailment to Slayton, who was now Director Flight Operations, and seek help from NASA's doctors.[79]

The doctors diagnosed 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. There was no known cure, but in about 20 percent of cases the condition went away by itself. They prescribed diuretics in an attempt to drain the fluid from the ear. They also diagnosed glaucoma. An X-ray found a lump on his thyroid, and on January 17, 1964, surgeons at Hermann Hospital removed 20 percent of it.[80][81] The condition caused Shepard to be removed from flight status. Grissom and John Young flew Gemini 3 instead.[82]

Shepard 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. He spent much of his time investing in banks and real estate.[76]

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.[83]

Apollo program

Main article: Apollo 14

In 1968, Stafford stopped by Shepard's office and told him that an otologist in Los Angeles had developed a cure for Ménière's disease. Shepard flew to Los Angeles, where he met with Dr. William F. House. House proposed to cut through Shepard's mastoid bone and make a tiny hole in the saccule. A small tube was inserted through which excess fluid would drain from the endolymphatic sac. The surgery was conducted in early 1969 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Los Angeles, where Shepard checked in under the pseudonym of Victor Poulos.[84][76]

The crew of Apollo 14: Edgar Mitchell, Shepard and Stuart Roosa

The surgery was successful, and Shepard was restored to full flight status on May 7, 1969.[76] Shepard and Slayton put Shepard down to command the next available moon mission, which was Apollo 13 in 1970. Under normal circumstances, this assignment would have gone to Cooper, as the backup commander of Apollo 10. Cooper was swept aside. Shepard asked for Jim McDivitt as his Lunar Module Pilot. A rookie, Stuart Roosa, was designated the Command Module Pilot. McDivitt baulked at the prospect, arguing that Shepard did not have sufficient Apollo training to command a moon mission. A rookie, Edgar Mitchell was designated the Lunar Module Pilot instead. When Slayton submitted the proposed crew assignments to NASA headquarters, George Mueller turned it down. So Slayton asked Jim Lovell, who had been the backup commander for Apollo 11, and was slated to command Apollo 14, if his crew would be willing to fly Apollo 13 instead. He agreed to do so, and Shepard's inexperienced crew was assigned to Apollo 14 instead. Neither Cooper nor McDivitt ever flew in space again.[85][86]

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

Shepard made his second space flight as Commander of Apollo 14 from January 31 to 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.[87] He became the fifth and, at 47, the oldest man to walk on the moon.[88] 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 to drive golf balls.[87] 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".[89]

For this mission Shepard was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal[90] and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. His citation read:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Captain Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (NSN: 0-389998), United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States, as Spacecraft Commander for the Apollo 14 flight to the Fra-Mauro area of the moon during the period 31 January 1971 to 9 February 1971. Responsible for the on-board control of the spacecraft command module Kittyhawk and the lunar module Antares in the gathering of scientific data involving complex and difficult instrumentation positing and sample gathering, including a hazardous two-mile traverse of the lunar surface, Captain Shepard, by his brilliant performance, contributed essentially to the success of this vital scientific moon mission. As a result of his skillful leadership, professional competence and dedication, the Apollo 14 mission, with its numerous tasks and vital scientific experiments, was accomplished in an outstanding manner, enabling scientists to determine more precisely the moon's original formation and further forecast man's proper role in the exploration of his Universe. By his courageous and determined devotion to duty, Captain Shepard rendered valuable and distinguished service and contributed greatly to the success of the United States Space Program, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[70]

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.[76] He was promoted to Rear Admiral by Nixon on August 26, 1971, the first astronaut to reach this rank, although McDivitt had previously been promoted to brigadier general in the Air Force.[91][92] He retired from both NASA and the Navy on July 31, 1974.[76]

Later years

After Shepard left NASA, he served on the boards of many corporations. He also served as president of his umbrella company for several business enterprises, Seven Fourteen Enterprises, Inc. (named for his two flights, Freedom 7 and Apollo 14).[93] He was a member of many organizations. He was a fellow of the American Astronautical Society and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots; member of the Rotary, the Kiwanis, the Mayflower Society, the Order of the Cincinnati, and the American Fighter Aces; honorary member, Board of Directors for the Houston School for Deaf Children, Director, National Space Institute, and Director, Los Angeles Ear Research Institute.[76]

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

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 Jim Lovell.[76]

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. The book generated some controversy for use of a staged photo purportedly showing Shepard hitting a golf ball on the Moon.[89] The book was also turned into a TV miniseries in 1994.[94]

Shepard was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996, and died from it in Pebble Beach, California, on July 21, 1998.[95][96] He was the second astronaut who had walked on the Moon to die, Jim Irwin being the first in 1991.[88] His widow Louise resolved to cremate his remains and scatter the ashes, but she died from a heart attack five weeks later on August 25, 1998, at 17:00, the time at which Shepard had always called her. They had been married for 53 years. The family decided to cremate them both, and their ashes scattered together by a Navy helicopter over Stillwater Cove, in front of their Pebble Beach home.[97][98]

Awards and honors

Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy Astronaut Wings [99]
Navy Distinguished Service Medal [70] Distinguished Flying Cross [70] Presidential Unit Citation [100]
Congressional Space Medal of Honor [76] NASA Distinguished Service Medal [76] NASA Distinguished Service Medal (Old pattern) [76][90]
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four stars [100] American Campaign Medal [99] American Defense Service Medal [99]
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal [100] World War II Victory Medal [99] Navy Occupation Service Medal [100]
National Defense Service Medal [100] Korean Service Medal [99] Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon [100]
United Nations Korea Medal [99] Philippine Defense Medal [100] Philippine Liberation Medal with two stars [99]

Shepard was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by President Jimmy Carter on October 1, 1978.[101] He also received the Golden Plate Award for Science and Exploration in 1981; the Langley Gold Medal (highest award of the Smithsonian Institution for Aeronautics and Astronautics) on May 5, 1964; the John J. Montgomery Award in 1963; 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.[76] 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.[76] Shepard was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1977,[102] the International Space Hall of Fame in 1981,[16] and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 11, 1990.[103]

Many things are named in his honor. The Navy named a supply ship, USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE-3) for him in 2006.[104] The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, New Hampshire is named after Shepard and Christa McAuliffe.[105] Interstate 93 in New Hampshire, from the Massachusetts is designated the Alan B. Shepard Highway.[106] and in Hampton, Virginia, a road is named Commander Shepard Boulevard in his honor.[107] His hometown of Derry has the nickname Space Town in honor of his career as an astronaut.[108] Following an act of Congress, the post office in Derry is designated the Alan B. Shepard, Jr. Post Office Building.[109] Alan Shepard Park in Cocoa Beach, Florida, a beach-side park south of Cape Canaveral, is named in his honor.[110] The City of Virginia Beach renamed its convention center, with its integral geodesic dome, the Alan B. Shepard Convention Center. The building was later renamed the Alan B. Shepard Civic Center, and was razed in 1994.[111] At the time of the Freedom 7 launch, Shepard lived in Virginia Beach.[112]

Shepard's high school alma mater in Derry, Pinkerton Academy, has a building named after him, and the school team name is called the Astros after his career as an astronaut.[113] 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.[114]

In a 2010 Space Foundation survey, Shepard was ranked as the ninth most popular space hero (tied with astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Gus Grissom).[115] 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.[116] 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.[117]

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.[118]

Blue Origin's subortial space tourism rocket, the New Shepard, is named after Shepard.[119]

In media


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Preceded by
Office Created

(informally: Deke Slayton)

Chief of the Astronaut Office
Succeeded by
John W. Young
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