Alan Shepard was born on November 18, 1923, in East Derry, New Hampshire. He was commissioned an Ensign through the U.S. Naval Academy on June 7, 1944, graduating a year early due to World War II. His first assignment was aboard the destroyer USS Cogswell (DD-651) in the Pacific Theater during the final year of the war. After the war, Shepard attended pilot training and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1947. His next assignment was with VF-4B (later redesignated VF-42) at NAS Oceana, Virginia, before attending Test Pilot school at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, in 1950. He served on two deployments aboard the USS Oriskany (CV-34) during the Korean War before returning to flight testing at NAS Patuxent River, where he served until 1956. Shepard next attended Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, and after graduating in 1957 he was assigned to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet. He was one of the original Mercury astronauts selected by NASA in April 1959, and he became the first American in space aboard the Freedom 7 spacecraft on May 5, 1961. Shepard became the Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA in 1963 and was training for the Gemini program when he was taken off flight status due to an inner ear problem. He was restored to flight status in May 1969 and was selected as commander of the Apollo 14 mission. He flew into space for the second and last time from January 31 to February 9, 1971, on the third lunar landing mission. Shepard was the 5th person to walk on the moon. He resumed his duties as Chief of the Astronaut Office in June 1971 and served in this position until his retirement from NASA and the U.S. Navy on August 1, 1974. He accumulated over 8,000 flying hours during his Navy career and 216 hours in space as a NASA Astronaut. Alan married the former Louise Brewer of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, on March 3, 1945, and they were married until his death on July 21, 1998. Louise followed him in death 5 weeks later, and both of them were cremated and their ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. Alan and Louise had three daughters-Laura, Juliana, and Alice.
His Navy Distinguished Service Medal Citation reads:
For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States, as Spacecraft Commander for the APOLLO 14 flight to the Fra-Mauro area of the moon during the period 31 January 1971 to 9 February 1971. Responsible for the on-board control of the spacecraft command module KITTYHAWK and the lunar module ANTARES in the gathering of scientific data involving complex and difficult instrumentation positing and sample gathering, including a hazardous two-mile traverse of the lunar surface, Captain Shepard, by his brilliant performance, contributed essentially to the success of this vital scientific moon mission. As a result of his skillful leadership, professional competence and dedication, the APOLLO 14 mission, with its numerous tasks and vital scientific experiments, was accomplished in an outstanding manner, enabling scientists to determine more precisely the moon's original formation and further forecast man's proper role in the exploration of his Universe. By his courageous and determined devotion to duty, Captain Shepard rendered valuable and distinguished service and contributed greatly to the success of the United States Space Program, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.