Alan Shepard: Ambassador of Exploration

Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) was an American naval aviator, test pilot, flag officer, and NASA astronaut who in 1961 became the second person, and the first American, in space. This Mercury flight was designed to enter space, but not to achieve orbit. Ten years later, at age 47 the oldest astronaut in the program, Shepard commanded the Apollo 14 mission, piloting the lander to the most accurate landing of the Apollo missions. He became the fifth person to walk on the Moon. During the mission he hit two golf balls on the lunar surface.

These were his only two space flights, as his flight status was interrupted for five years (1964-69) during the Mercury and Gemini programs by Ménière’s disease, an inner-ear disease that was surgically corrected before his moon flight. Shepard served as chief of the Astronaut Office from November 1963 – July 1969 (approximately the period of his grounding), and from June 1971 – August 1, 1974 (from his last flight, to his retirement). He was promoted from captain to rear admiral on August 25, 1971. He retired from the US Navy and NASA in 1974.

During retirement he became a successful businessman. He died of leukemia in 1998, five weeks before the death of his wife of 53 years. They were survived by their three daughters.

Read more about Alan Shepard the world’s only Lunar Golfer here Alan Shepard

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