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Alan Shepard entered the history books by being the first American in space. And while his launch was overshadowed by that of Yuri Gagarin – which beat his by only a few weeks – his career, talent, and legacy are nothing short of legendary.
Alan Shepard was one of the Mercury 7 astronauts along with Deke Slayton, Gus Grissom, Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Wally Shira, and Gordon Cooper. This was NASA’s first manned space program.
Alan’s mission was given the name Freedom 7 and he went up on a Mercury Redstone rocket. His flight was suborbital and only lasted 15 minutes, but started the US on the course for the moon.
But Alan Shepard’s early career started as a pilot in the Navy, where he ascended to become a test pilot, testing out the newest fighter jets and helping to decide which ones became part of the Navy’s arsenal.
After his Mercury flight, Shepard was grounded on account of Meniere’s Disease, which causes pressure in the inner ear and creates balance and orientation issues. But after corrective surgery, he was reinstated into the space program and served a commander on the Apollo 14 mission.