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Who Was Alan Shepard?
May 11, 2011

Alan Shepard was the first American in space. He was one of NASA's first seven astronauts. Later, he walked on the moon during the Apollo program.

What Was Shepard's Early Life Like?
Alan Shepard was born on Nov. 18, 1923. He was born in East Derry, N.H., and grew up there. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy. He served on a Navy ship in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. After the war, Shepard entered flight training and earned his pilot's wings. He graduated from Naval Test Pilot School and Naval War College. In April 1959, NASA selected Shepard as a member of its first group of seven astronauts.

What Happened on Alan Shepard's First Spaceflight?
On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space. He flew on a one-person Mercury spacecraft that he named Freedom 7. It launched on a Redstone rocket. On this flight, Shepard did not orbit Earth. He flew 116 miles high and then returned safely. The flight lasted about 15 ½ minutes. The mission was a success.

What Happened After Shepard's First Spaceflight?
After his first flight, Shepard developed a medical problem. An inner ear problem stopped him from flying in space. NASA named Shepard as chief of the Astronaut Office. He helped select new astronauts, plan missions and make sure astronauts were ready to fly. Later, he had surgery to fix the ear problem, and he was able to fly again. Almost 10 years passed between his first and second flights.

What Happened on Alan Shepard's Second Spaceflight?
Shepard's second spaceflight was on the Apollo 14 mission to the moon. He was commander of a crew that included Stuart Roosa and Edgar Mitchell. The Apollo spacecraft was launched on a Saturn V (5) rocket.

On Feb. 15, 1971, Shepard and Mitchell landed on the moon. (Roosa stayed in orbit around the moon while the other two landed.) During two moonwalks, Shepard and Mitchell collected more than 100 pounds of moon rocks. They conducted scientific experiments on the lunar surface. Shepard also became the first person to hit a golf ball on the moon, showing how far it would go in the moon's lower gravity.
What Happened After Shepard's Second Spaceflight?
After his second flight, Shepard returned to his job as head of the Astronaut Office. He retired from NASA in 1974. Shepard worked in private business. He also did volunteer work to support education and to help people learn about spaceflight. Shepard died of leukemia in 1998.

Related Resources
› Alan Shepard: First American in Space
› NASA Milestones - Freedom 7
› Alan Shepard - Ambassador of Exploration
› Alan Shepard   →
› Freedom 7
› Apollo 14
› What Was Project Mercury?
› What Was the Apollo Program?
› What Was the Saturn V?
› Alan Shepard, First American in Space

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David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services

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Alan Shepard wears his silver Mercury spacesuit
NASA selected Alan Shepard as one of its first seven astronauts in 1959.
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Alan Shepard's Redstone rocket leaves the pad
Alan Shepard became the first American in space on the May 1961 launch of Freedom 7.
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Alan Shepard plants a flag on the moon
Alan Shepard became the fifth person to walk on the moon during Apollo 14.
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Page Last Updated: September 4th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator