Remembering Astronaut Alan Shepard

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Alan Shepard
(All Photos: NASA / Public Domain)

New Hampshire photos during autumn are popular at this time of year, however, NASA Astronaut Alan Shepard also comes to mind. He was born in Derry, New Hampshire.

Alan B. Shepard, Jr. (1923-1998) earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1944. He possessed an IQ of 145 and after a month in aviation school, he was dispatched aboard the USS Cogswell during World War II in 1944 and as gunnery officer. He participated in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 and received his Navy wings in 1947.

After his tours of duty aboard aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean with this squadron, in 1950 Shepard was selected to attend the United States Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland.

Upon graduation, he participated in extensive flight test assignments before making two tours of duty to the Western Pacific on board the USS Oriskany.

In 1957 he Shepard graduated from the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island and 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 of those hours in jet aircraft.

In 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed under U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to recruit its first astronauts. Of a total 508 graduates of test pilot schools, 35 men were selected with Shepard eventually chosen among the original seven Mercury Program astronauts.

On May 5, 1961 Shepard made history when he became the first American to journey into space aboard the “Freedom 7” spacecraft. He remained with NASA as Chief of the Astronaut Office tasked with coordinating and scheduling training programs, and providing flight evaluations relative to the design and construction of spacecraft systems and equipment.

Alan Shepard undertook his second space mission as spacecraft commander on Apollo 14 from January 31 – February 9, 1971. He was accompanied on man’s third lunar landing mission by Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot, and Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot. Of note, Shepard became the oldest astronaut to walk on the Moon at age 47.

Appointed as a Rear Admiral by U.S. President Richard M. Nixon in 1971, Alan B. Shepard served as a member of the U.N. General Assembly. He retired from NASA and the U.S. Navy in 1974. Alan Shepard died in 1998.

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(NASA Photo / Pubic Domain): The Original Mercury Seven astronauts with a U.S. Air Force F-106B jet aircraft. From left to right: M. Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom, Walter M. (Wally) Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Donald K. (Deke) Slayton.

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