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If you like Admiral Alan Shepard's story, you might also like:
Robert Ballard,
Daniel Goldin,
Paul MacCready,
John Mather,
Story Musgrave,
Sally Ride and
Chuck Yeager

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Alan Shepard in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Earth Day
The Cosmos

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Alan Shepard
Alan Shepard
Profile of Alan Shepard Biography of Alan Shepard Interview with Alan Shepard Alan Shepard Photo Gallery

Alan Shepard Profile

First American in Space

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  Alan Shepard

Until 1961, space travel was only the fantasy of science fiction writers. In that year, fantasy became reality as the United States and the Soviet Union both launched men into space. On May 5 of that year, a Redstone rocket launched America's first astronaut, Alan Shepard, beyond the earth's atmosphere, into space.

Shepard's mission made him a national hero and put to rest any fears that the United States would be left behind in the space race. Shepard, a former Navy test pilot, returned to space ten years later as commander of Apollo XIV, which he led successfully to the moon and back.

When America's space program began in a blaze of publicity, the names of the first seven astronauts were known to almost every American. Today, many Americans take the missions of the Space Shuttle for granted, and few of our astronauts become household names. But of all the brave men and women who have led our country into the Space Age, one name still stands alone: that of Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

Alan Shepard Profile Photo
Maxime A. Faget Profile
Father of the Mercury Spacecraft

Freedom 7, the Mercury capsule that carried Alan Shepard into space, was the brainchild of Maxime Faget of NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center.

After studying engineering and aeronautic design at Louisiana State University, Max Faget entered the United States Navy and served on board submarines in World War II. After the war, he joined the team of Dr. Robert Gilruth, designing high-altitude and high-speed aircraft for the Department of Defense. He contributed to the design of the Scout and Little Joe research rockets, the Polaris missile, and the supersonic X-15 airplane.

When the Soviet Union placed Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, into orbit, the United States began a crash program to equal and better the Soviet effort. Max Faget followed Dr. Gilruth into the new space agency, NASA. There, Faget had to overcome the objections of a host of engineers and policy-makers to convince them that a blunt, wingless capsule would leave and re-enter the atmosphere more safely than a streamlined, winged aircraft.

Faget stayed with NASA through the Gemini and Apollo programs, and participated in the design of the Space Shuttle. After retiring from NASA, he continued to consult and lecture for many years before his death in 2004. His memories and observations are interspersed throughout our interview with Alan Shepard.

This page last revised on Aug 02, 2010 12:14 EDT
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