Alan Shepard became the first American in space. After Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, he became the second human to journey into space. He began his naval tenure on the destroyer ‘USS Cogswell,’ which was on active duty in the Pacific Ocean. Following his flight instruction, he joined ‘Fighter Squadron 42’ (VF-42) and flew the ‘Vought F4U Corsair.’ He entered the ‘United States Naval Test Pilot School’ and then flew high-altitude tests. Shepard was one of seven test pilots chosen for NASA’s space initiative and became a national hero after his first space mission. He led the first manned ‘Gemini expedition, which was the next step in the United States’ space program after the ‘Mercury’ series. Shepard led the ‘Apollo 14’ mission, which resulted in America’s third successful Moon touchdown. At the age of 47, he became the fifth and oldest individual to walk on the Moon’s surface. Before retiring, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral in the ‘US Navy,’ and he spent the remainder of his time close to his family. In 1998, he perished from leukemia.
Youth and Adolescence
Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. was born on November 18, 1923, in Derry, New Hampshire, USA. Alan B Shepard Sr. worked at the ‘Derry National Bank’ and served in the ‘National Army.’ During World War II, he served with the ‘American Expeditionary Army’ in France. His mother, Pauline Renza Shepard, was a stay-at-home mom. He had a sister called Pauline, who went by Polly.
Shepard was an outstanding pupil in the school. He missed sixth grade while attending ‘Adams School,’ and then eighth grade while attending ‘Oak Street School.’ He moved on to finish his education privately at the ‘Pinkerton Academy’ in Derry. He was fascinated by aircraft in school and built model planes. He frequently cycled to ‘Manchester Airfield’ to perform odd jobs in return for rides and informal flying instruction.
He cleared the ‘United States Naval Academy entrance exam in 1940, despite being underage. He attended the ‘Admiral Farragut School’ for a year before enrolling in the ‘Naval Academy’ in 1941. He earned several prizes for swimming and sailing there. In June 1944, he graduated as an ensign and earned a BS degree from the ‘United States Naval Academy.’
Alan Shepard’s Career
Shepard began his military career in August 1944 aboard the destroyer ‘USS Cogswell,’ which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean. As a gunnery commander, he was in charge of operating the ship’s 20 mm and 40 mm guns against Japanese “kamikazes.” This was to familiarize him with the aircraft before he began flying.
In January 1946, he began his flight training at the ‘Naval Air Station Corpus Christi’ in Texas, and subsequently advanced his training at the ‘Naval Air Station Pensacola’ in Florida. After six flawless landings on the ‘USS Saipan,’ he was awarded his military aviator wings in 1947.
On his first assignment, he joined ‘Fighter Squadron 42’ (VF-42) to operate the ‘Vought F4U Corsair’ from the ‘Naval Air Station Norfolk in Virginia, and embarked on his first cruise, in the Caribbean region, on the ‘Franklin D Roosevelt’ in 1948.
He attended the ‘United States Naval Test Pilot School’ in 1950 and later performed high-altitude tests to gather data for in-flight refueling. His next assignment was with the Korean War-deployed ‘VF-193 night-fighter unit.
After the conflict, he enrolled in the ‘Naval War College’ in Newport, Rhode Island, where he graduated in 1957 and joined the staff of the ‘Atlantic Fleet’ commander-in-chief.
In 1959, Shepard was one of seven test pilots chosen to be a part of NASA’s space program. He was chosen as the first American astronaut to be launched into space as part of the ‘MR-3’ mission in May 1961, following rigorous training and physical conditioning. After Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth in April of that year, he became the second human to journey into space.
After the incident, he became a national hero and was given the ‘NASA Distinguished Service Medal’ by President John F. Kennedy. In February 1962, he became a capsule communicator for the ‘Mercury-Atlas 6’ and was slated to pilot the ‘Mercury-Atlas 10’ the following year. However, the operation was canceled, and he was named commander of the first manned ‘Gemini mission, which was the next level of the US space program and entailed launching a crew of two into space.
Following a series of health problems, Shepard was forced to retire from the flight and was named “Chief of the Astronaut Office,” the most senior leadership position for active ‘NASA’ astronauts, in November 1963. As a result, he was in charge of astronaut training and flight planning.
Shepard was nominated as the commander of the ‘Apollo 14’ mission, which made America’s third successful landing on the Moon in February 1971, after undergoing surgery and being pronounced fit to fly. At the age of 47, he became the fifth and oldest individual to walk on the Moon’s surface.
He was appointed as a delegate to the ’26th United Nations General Assembly and promoted to the position of rear admiral in the ‘US Navy’ before retiring in 1971 in recognition of his contribution to the US space mission.
Alan’s Important Projects
In 1994, he released ‘Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon,’ which was adapted into a television miniseries.
Honors and Recognition
Alan Shephard received a number of honors, including the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the Golden Plate Award for ‘Science and Exploration,’ the Angley Gold Medal, and the John J Montgomery Award.
In 1977, he was honored with the National Aviation Hall of Fame, in 1981 with the International Space Hall of Fame, and in 1990 into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Personal History and Influence
While still in the ‘Naval Academy,’ he discreetly married Louise Brewer in 1944. They chose to marry a year later, but they were unable to spend much time together due to his active service in the ‘US Navy.’ He did, however, stay in touch with her throughout the war. They had two daughters, Laura and Julie, after the war.
Louise’s sister died in 1956, leaving behind Judith Williams, whom they adopted and renamed Alice. Despite the fact that Shepard was rumored to have had numerous affairs, his wife did not confront him, and the couple led a normal existence. They eventually had six grandkids.
He was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease in late 1963, an ailment that produced bouts of extreme dizziness and nausea, forcing him to forego flight. He also needed thyroid surgery, which hampered his active job as an astronaut.
In 1969, he was successfully operated on for his condition at ‘St. Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles, and he was cleared to travel. After retiring, he earned a fortune in banking and served on the boards of several institutions until his death from leukemia in July 1998.
Estimated Net Worth
Alan Shepard was an American astronaut, military aviator, test pilot, and businessman who died in 1998 with a net worth of $50 million. He was best recognized for being the first American in space and to have walked on the moon.
Toward the end of his tenure, he made investments in banks, real estate, and oil exploration. He became a co-owner of the ‘Baytown National Bank,’ and he purchased a partnership in a Texan ranch.