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Home > Mercury, Redstone, Atlas, Gemini > Biographical Sketch of Alan Shepard

Biographical Sketch of Alan B. Shepard Jr.

Alan B. Shepard Jr., a Navy Commander and a Project Mercury Astronaut was America's first man in space. He flew a suborbital mission May 5, 1961.

Shepard, a native of East Derry, New Hampshire, was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1944 and the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island in 1958.

He attended the Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland in 1950 and subsequently served two tours in flight test work there. During his first tour, he took part in high altitude tests, and took part in experiments in test and development of the Navy's in-flight refueling system, carrier stability trials of the F2H3 Banshee, and Navy trials of the first angled carrier deck.

During his second tour at Patuxent, he was engaged in testing the F3H Demon, F8U Crusader, F4D Skyray, and F11F Tigercat. He also served as a project test pilot on the F5D Skylancer.

Shepard was chosen with the first group of astronauts in 1959. In addition to serving as pilot of Mercury-Redstone 3 he was backup pilot for Mercury-Atlas 9. He was subsequently grounded due to an inner ear aliment until May 7, 1969, during which time he served as chief of the Astronaut Office. He commanded Apollo 14 and became the fifth man to walk on the moon. In June 1971 he resumed duties as chief of the Astronaut Office. He retired from NASA and the Navy on August 1, 1974.