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NASANews@hq.nasa.gov: Alan Shepard, First American Astronaut, Dies at 74

--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: NASANews@hq.nasa.gov
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Alan Shepard, First American Astronaut, Dies at 74
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 16:02:58 -0400 (EDT)
Message-ID: <199807222002.QAA18569@spinoza.public.hq.nasa.gov>

Peggy Wilhide
Headquarters, Washington, DC                    July 22, 1998
(Phone: 202/358-1898)

Brian Welch
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1600)

Rob Navias
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(Phone: 281/483-3671)

Howard Benedict
Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, Titusville, FL
(Phone: 407/269-6119)

RELEASE: 98-131


     Alan B. Shepard, Jr., the first American to fly in space and 
one of only 12 humans who walked on the Moon, died Tuesday night 
after a lengthy illness in Monterey, CA. He was 74.

          Shepard died at Community Hospital on the Monterey 
Peninsula, according to his family. The cause of death was not 
disclosed. Funeral services are pending.

          "The entire NASA family is deeply saddened by the 
passing of Alan Shepard. NASA has lost one of its greatest 
pioneers; America has lost a shining star," said NASA 
Administrator Daniel S. Goldin.

     "Alan Shepard will be remembered, always, for his 
accomplishments of the past; being one of the original Mercury 
astronauts, for being the first American to fly in space, and for 
being one of only 12 Americans ever to step on the Moon. He should 
also be remembered as someone who, even in his final days, never 
lost sight of the future," Goldin added.

     "On behalf of the space program Alan Shepard helped launch, 
and all those that the space program has and will inspire, we send 
our deepest condolences to his wife, Louise, their children, and 
the rest of the Shepard family.

     Alan Shepard lived to explore the heavens. On this final 
journey, we wish him Godspeed."

     "Alan Shepard is a true American hero, a pioneer, an 
original. He was part of a courageous corps of astronauts that 
allowed us to reach out into space and venture into the unknown," 
said George W.S. Abbey, Director of the Johnson Space Center, 
Houston, TX. "Alan Shepard gave all of us the privilege to 
participate in the beginnings of America's great adventure of 
human space exploration. He will be greatly missed. The program 
has lost one of its greatest supporters and a true friend. Our 
thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Louise, and their family."

     Named as one of the nation's original seven Mercury 
astronauts in 1959, Shepard became the first to carry America's 
banner into space on May 5, 1961, riding a Redstone rocket on a 
15-minute suborbital flight that took him and his Freedom 7 
Mercury capsule 115 miles in altitude and 302 miles downrange from 
Cape Canaveral, FL.

     His flight followed by three weeks the launch of Soviet 
cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who on April 12, 1961, became the first 
human space traveler on a one-orbit flight lasting 108 minutes.

     Although the flight of Freedom 7 was brief, it nevertheless 
was a major step forward for the U.S. in a rapidly-accelerating 
race with the Soviet Union for dominance in the new arena of 

    Buoyed by the overwhelming response to Shepard's flight, which 
made the astronaut an instant hero and a household name, President 
John F. Kennedy set the nation on a course to the Moon, declaring 
before a joint session of Congress just three weeks later, "I 
believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, 
before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and 
returning him safely to the Earth."

    Over a three and a half year period from July 1969 to December 
1972, a dozen Americans explored the lunar surface. Shepard was 
the fifth man to walk on the Moon, and the oldest,  at the age of 

    Shepard, however, was almost bypassed for a trip to the moon. 
He had to overcome an inner ear problem called Meuniere's syndrome 
that grounded him for several years following his initial 
pioneering flight.

     An operation eventually cured the problem and Shepard was 
named to command the Apollo 14 mission. On January 31, 1971, 
Shepard, Command Module pilot Stuart Roosa and Lunar Module pilot 
Edgar Mitchell embarked for the Moon atop a Saturn 5 rocket. 
Shepard and Mitchell landed the lunar module Antares on February 5 
in the Fra Mauro highlands while Roosa orbited overhead in the 
command ship Kitty Hawk.

    Shepard planted his feet on the lunar surface a few hours 
later, declaring, "Al is on the surface, and it's been a long way, 
but we're here." During two excursions on the surface totaling 
nine hours, Shepard and Mitchell set up a science station, 
collected 92 pounds of rocks and gathered soil samples from the 
mountainous region.

    Near the end of the second moonwalk, and just before entering 
the lunar module for the last time, Shepard (an avid golfer) hit two 
golf balls with a makeshift club. The first landed in a nearby 
crater. The second was hit squarely, and in the one-sixth gravity 
of the moon, Shepard said it traveled "miles and miles and miles."

    Shepard's death leaves only four survivors among the original 
Mercury 7 astronauts: Sen. John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon 
Cooper and Walter Schirra.

    Born Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. on Nov. 18, 1923, in East 
Derry, NH, he received a Bachelor of Science degree from the 
United States Naval Academy in 1944. Upon graduation, he married 
Louise Brewer, whom he met while at Annapolis. Shepard received 
his wings as a Naval aviator in 1947 and served several tours 
aboard aircraft carriers. In 1950, he attended Naval Test Pilot 
School at Patuxent River, MDS, and became a test pilot and 
instructor there. He later attended the Naval War College at 
Newport, RI, and after graduating, was assigned to the staff of 
the commander-in-chief, Atlantic Fleet, as an aircraft readiness 

    In August 1974, Shepard, then a rear admiral, retired from 
both NASA and the Navy and became chairman of Marathon 
Construction Corp. in Houston. He later founded his own business 
company, Seven Fourteen Enterprises, named for his two missions on 
Freedom 7 and Apollo 14.

    In 1984, he and the other surviving Mercury astronauts, along 
with Betty Grissom, the widow of astronaut Virgil I. (Gus) 
Grissom, founded the Mercury Seven Foundation to raise money for 
scholarships for science and engineering students in college. In 
1995, the organization was renamed the Astronaut Scholarship 
Foundation. Shepard was elected president and chairman of the 
foundation, posts he held until October 1997, when he turned over 
both positions to former astronaut James A. Lovell.

    Survivors include his widow, Louise, daughters Julie, Laura 
and Alice and six grandchildren.

    The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be 
made to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, 6225 Vectorspace 
Boulevard, Titusville, FL, 32780.

                          - end -

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