Sunday, July 21, 2013

Remembering Alan Shepard November 18, 1923 - July 21, 1998

Many of us who lived during the 60's remember with excitement the astronaut walking on the lunar surface and yet even more remarkable, playing golf.  Forty seven year old Alan Shepard was responsible for that experience.

Alan Bartlett Shepard was an American naval aviator, test pilot, businessman, and NASA Astronaut. In 1961, he became the first American and second person to travel to space and the fifth person to walk on the moon.

Shepard was born in Derry, New Hampshire,  As a young boy, he was fascinated with airplanes when he had a job of helping clean airport hangars.  He would soon take flying lessons from the owner of  the small Daniel Webster airport.  Shepard attended school at both the Pinkerton Academy followed by the Admiral Farragut Academy's Class of 1941, Shepard pursued his interest and passion for flying by attending the US Naval Academy and served on the USS Cogswell during World War II. He eventually attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and continued to excel in his career of aviation having logged more than 8000 hours of flying time and 3700 hours of jet aircraft.

His career with NASA began when he was one of 110 military test pilots invited by NASA to volunteer for the first U.S. manned space flight program that led him to be named to the original group of seven Mercury astronauts.  He was chosen to be the first American to enter space second only to Soviet cosmonaut pioneer, Yuri Gagarin. He would command the Mercury flight and then the Apollo 14 mission.  He would then become the Chief of the Astronaut Office from 1963-69 and was in charge of all happenings in the NASA office.  

After his exemplary military and space career having retired with the rank of Rear Admiral, he became a successful businessman where he served on the boards of several corporations. He was president of Seven Fourteen Enterprises (named for his two flights, Freedom 7 and Apollo 14) an umbrella manufacturer.

He published a book with two journalists called Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon that eventually became a television miniseries. 

He was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor along with numerous awards and accolades and was inducted into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990 and his name is associated with numerous structures and works in America.

Alan Shepard died on July 21, 1998 from pneumonia at the age of 74 near his home in Pebble Beach, California (the 29th anniversary of the first moonwalk).  He was the second person to die who walked on the moon.

More than 850 family, friends, and colleagues of Shepard attended his memorial service (memorial program pictured) at the Johnson Space Center that ended with a flyover salute.  Astronaut John Glenn was among those who spoke and he said of Shepard "he was a patriot, he was a leader, he was a competitor, a fierce competitor.  He was a hero. Most importantly to us, he was a close friend." 

Shepard was cremated and scattered by helicopter in the sea near his home in Stillwater Cove.  His wife died five weeks after Shepard. A cenotaph honoring Shepard and his wife, Louise was placed in Forest Hill Cemetery in East Derry, New Hampshire.

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