BIRTHPLACE AND DATE: Born November 18, 1923, in East Derry, New Hampshire. Shepard was the son of Alan Bartlett Shepard Sr., a retired Army colonel, and Renza Emerson Shepard. As a child in New Hampshire he excelled in school, and became fascinated with aeroplanes. On weekends he rode his bicycle ten miles to the local airport, where he did odd jobs in exchange for rides.
EDUCATION: After graduation from high school and a year at the Admiral Farragut Academy in New Jersey, he entered the US Naval Academy, graduating 462nd in a class of 913. Bachelor of Science from U.S. Naval Academy.
EXPERIENCE: Shepard served as an ensign aboard the destroyer Cogswell in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he became a naval aviator. After several tours of duty in the Mediterranean, Shepard became a Navy test pilot, conducting development tests of fighters (F4D Skyray, F11F Tigercat, F2H3 Banshee, F5D Skylancer). He also helped work out landing techniques for the Navy's new angled-deck aircraft carriers.
Shepard was selected in 1959 to be one of the seven Mercury astronauts and, evaluated as best of the group, was chosen in 1960 to be the first American in space. After Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space in the orbital flight of Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961, the pressure for Shepard to be launched became enormous. Delays pushed Shepard's launch back from May 2 to May 5, 1961. After his brief 15 minute flight Shepard splashed down 65 km from Bermuda and was hoisted aboard a Marine helicopter that took him to the aircraft carrier Lake Champlain. A day later, President Kennedy awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal, and a parade in Washington two days after that drew 250,000 people.
An ear problem grounded Shepard and he was put in charge of the astronauts' office for the next ten years. After surgery corrected the problem, he was put in command of the Apollo 14 moon mission that was launched on January 31, 1971.
Shepard retired in 1974 from NASA and the Navy as a Rear Admiral and devoted full time to the business activities that had made him a millionaire even before he left NASA. He became chairman of Marathon Construction Corp. in Houston, and joined the boards of directors of several companies. His Seven Fourteen Enterprises (named for Freedom 7 and Apollo 14) served as an umbrella company for his diverse business interests. Shepard and wife, Louise -- they had three daughters -- had homes in Houston's River Oaks section, Breckenridge, Colorado, and Pebble Beach, California. In his later years, Shepard spent most of his time in Pebble Beach. In 1996 he was diagnosed with leukaemia, passing away two years later in Monterey, California.
In 1950, he attended the United States Navy Test Pilot School at 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; and test and development experiments of the Navy's in-flight refueling system, carrier suitability trails of the F2H3 Banshee, and Navy trials of the first angled carrier deck. He was subsequently assigned to Fighter Squadron 193 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 onboard the carrier Oriskany.
He returned to Patuxent for a second tour of duty and engaged in flight testing the F3H Demon, F8U Crusader, F4D Skyray, and F11F Tigercat. He was also project test pilot on the F5D Skylancer, and his last five months at Patuxent were spent as an instructor in the Test Pilot School. He later attended the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, and upon graduating in 1957 was subsequently assigned to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, as aircraft readiness officer.
He has logged more than 8,000 hours flying time--3,700 hours in jet aircraft.
In 1963, he 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 available pilot/non-pilot personnel for assignment to crew positions 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 was restored to full flight status in May 1969, following corrective surgery for an inner ear disorder.
Shepard made his second space flight as spacecraft commander on Apollo 14, 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. Maneuvering their lunar module, Antares, to a landing in the hilly upland Fra Mauro region of the moon, Shepard and Mitchell subsequently deployed and activated various scientific equipment and experiments and collected almost 100 pounds of lunar samples for return to earth. Other Apollo 14 achievements included: first use of Mobile Equipment Transporter (MET); largest payload placed in lunar orbit; longest distance traversed on the lunar surface; largest payload returned from the lunar surface; longest lunar surface stay time (33 hours); longest lunar surface EVA (9 hours and 17 minutes); first use of shortened lunar orbit rendezvous techniques; first use of colored TV with new vidicon tube on lunar surface; and first extensive orbital science period conducted during CSM solo operations.
Rear Admiral Shepard has logged a total of 216 hours and 57 minutes in space, of which 9 hours and 17 minutes were spent in lunar surface EVA.
He resumed his duties as Chief of the Astronaut Office in June 1971 and served in this capacity until he retired from NASA and the Navy on August 1, 1974.
Shepard was in private business in Houston, Texas. He served as the President of the Mercury Seven Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides college science scholarships for deserving students.
After booster problems on the Mercury MR-2 chimp test flight, Von Braun insisted on a further unmanned booster test flight, against the wishes of Shepard and others at NASA. A Mercury boilerplate capsule was launched on a flawless test on 24 March. If NASA had overruled Von Braun, the manned Freedom 7 capsule would have flown instead. Shepard would have been the first man in space (though not in orbit), beating Gagarin's flight by three weeks.
Alan Shepard first American in space, less than a month after Gagarin and only on a 15 minute suborbital flight. Only manned flight with original capsule (tiny round porthole and periscope a la Vostok). If NASA had not listened to Von Braun, Shepard would have flown on the MR-BD flight of 24 March, beating Gagarin by three weeks and becoming the first man in space (though not in orbit). Shepard's capsule reached an altitude of 115.696 miles, range of 302 miles,and speed of 5,100 miles per hour. He demonstrated control of a vehicle during weightlessness and high G stresses. Recovery operations were perfect; there was no damage to the spacecraft; and Astronaut Shepard was in excellent condition.
Final Mercury mission, Faith 7, was piloted by Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. After 22 orbits, virtually all spacecraft systems had failed, and Cooper manually fired the retrorockets and the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean 34 hours, 19 minutes, and 49 seconds after liftoff. Cooper was reported in good condition, and this turned out to be the final Mercury flight.
NASA and the Mercury managers had to decide whether to undertake another Mercury after Cooper's planned 22 orbit Mercury 9 flight. Walter Williams, Alan Shepard, and others at MSC pushed for a three-day Mercury 10 endurance mission. A capsule was allocated and Shepard had the name 'Freedom 7 II' painted on the side. But the risk and work pending on Gemini persuaded NASA managers not to undertake another mission unless Mercury 9 failed. By May 11, 1963 Julian Scheer, the new NASA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, announced 'It is absolutely beyond question that if this shot (MA-9) is successful there will be no MA-10.' The massive breakdown of nearly all systems aboard Mercury 9 convinced NASA that this was the right decision. Aerospace writer Martin Caidin used the Mercury 10 scenario as the basis for his novel, Marooned. In the book, the capsule's retrorockets fail, stranding astronaut Pruett in orbit. He is saved by the combined efforts of NASA Gemini and Russian maneuverable Voskhod spacecraft.
The Apollo 14 (AS-509) mission - manned by astronauts Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Stuart A. Roosa, and Edgar D. Mitchell - was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, KSC, at 4:03 p.m. EST January 31 on a Saturn V launch vehicle. A 40-minute hold had been ordered 8 minutes before scheduled launch time because of unsatisfactory weather conditions, the first such delay in the Apollo program. Activities during earth orbit and translunar injection were similar to those of the previous lunar landing missions. However, during transposition and docking, CSM 110 Kitty Hawk had difficulty docking with LM-8 Antares. A hard dock was achieved on the sixth attempt at 9:00 p.m. EST, 1 hour 54 minutes later than planned. Other aspects of the translunar journey were normal and proceeded according to flight plan. A crew inspection of the probe and docking mechanism was televised during the coast toward the moon. The crew and ground personnel were unable to determine why the CSM and LM had failed to dock properly, but there was no indication that the systems would not work when used later in the flight.
Apollo 14 entered lunar orbit at 1:55 a.m. EST on February 4. At 2:41 a.m. the separated S-IVB stage and instrument unit struck the lunar surface 174 kilometers southeast of the planned impact point. The Apollo 12 seismometer, left on the moon in November 1969, registered the impact and continued to record vibrations for two hours.
After rechecking the systems in the LM, astronauts Shepard and Mitchell separated the LM from the CSM and descended to the lunar surface. The Antares landed on Fra Mauro at 4:17 a.m. EST February 5, 9 to 18 meters short of the planned landing point. The first EVA began at 9:53 a.m., after intermittent communications problems in the portable life support system had caused a 49-minute delay. The two astronauts collected a 19.5-kilogram contingency sample; deployed the TV, S-band antenna, American flag, and Solar Wind Composition experiment; photographed the LM, lunar surface, and experiments; deployed the Apollo lunar surface experiments package 152 meters west of the LM and the laser-ranging retroreflector 30 meters west of the ALSEP; and conducted an active seismic experiment, firing 13 thumper shots into the lunar surface.
A second EVA period began at 3:11 a.m. EST February 6. The two astronauts loaded the mobile equipment transporter (MET) - used for the first time - with photographic equipment, tools, and a lunar portable magnetometer. They made a geology traverse toward the rim of Cone Crater, collecting samples on the way. On their return, they adjusted the alignment of the ALSEP central station antenna in an effort to strengthen the signal received by the Manned Space Flight Network ground stations back on earth.
Just before reentering the LM, astronaut Shepard dropped a golf ball onto the lunar surface and on the third swing drove the ball 366 meters. The second EVA had lasted 4 hours 35 minutes, making a total EVA time for the mission of 9 hours 24 minutes. The Antares lifted off the moon with 43 kilograms of lunar samples at 1:48 p.m. EST February 6.
Meanwhile astronaut Roosa, orbiting the moon in the CSM, took astronomy and lunar photos, including photos of the proposed Descartes landing site for Apollo 16.
Ascent of the LM from the lunar surface, rendezvous, and docking with the CSM in orbit were performed as planned, with docking at 3:36 p.m. EST February 6. TV coverage of the rendezvous and docking maneuver was excellent. The two astronauts transferred from the LM to the CSM with samples, equipment, and film. The LM ascent stage was then jettisoned and intentionally crashed on the moon's surface at 7:46 p.m. The impact was recorded by the Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 ALSEPs.
The spacecraft was placed on its trajectory toward earth during the 34th lunar revolution. During transearth coast, four inflight technical demonstrations of equipment and processes in zero gravity were performed.
The CM and SM separated, the parachutes deployed, and other reentry events went as planned, and the Kitty Hawk splashed down in mid-Pacific at 4:05 p.m. EST February 9 about 7 kilometers from the recovery ship U.S.S. New Orleans. The Apollo 14 crew returned to Houston on February 12, where they remained in quarantine until February 26.
All primary mission objectives had been met. The mission had lasted 216 hours 40 minutes and was marked by the following achievements:
Explored lunar surface near LM and deployed ALSEP unmanned scientific station equipment.
Attempted to reach rim of Cone Crater on moonwalk with ''golf cart'' for hauling equipment.
Threw excess equipment out of LM before lift-off.