5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Alan B. Shepard Jr.

On May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard Jr. was launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space.  Here are 5 things you probably didn't know about Alan Shepard, who later commanded the Apollo 14 mission...


His Historic Trip Into Space Lasted Only 15 Minutes # In 1961, Shepard became the first American to travel in space and handle the controls when his Freedom 7 spacecraft blasted into the sky from the launch pad in Florida. Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut, had become the first human in space a month earlier. Shepard’s mission lasted about 15 minutes and traveled over 300 miles when it then came down, landing in the Atlantic Ocean, where he was retrieved by an aircraft carrier.

He Took Off in a Pee-stained Spacesuit # Being an astronaut would be pretty cool, but there is one part of it worth being afraid of. No, we're not talking about all the dangers that come with going into space, we're talking about what happens when you put on that fancy suit, strap into the ship, are waiting for liftoff and suddenly realize ... you have to go to the bathroom. That's what happened to Alan Sheppard at around the four-hour mark of waiting for his famous flight to take off. But mission control was trying to put the first man in space. They weren't going to shut down the whole operation so the guy could use the facilities. They told him he could either hold it in or he could let it go. So he did the latter. Into his suit. After that flight, NASA got to work on adding a urinary collection device to the spacesuits.


He's the Only Person to Play Golf on the Moon Shepard, along with Edgar Mitchell and Stuart Roosa, were chosen to go to the moon on the Apollo 14 mission. Once they reached the moon, they were there for over 33 hours. Shepard was the oldest astronaut in space and wanted to do something memorable. So, he smuggled a makeshift six-iron on board the spacecraft and hit two balls during his moonwalk. Shepard estimated that the second one soared 200 yards, thanks to the moon's much lower gravity.

Medical Problems Probably Saved Shepard's Life Shepard was unfortunately disqualified from a number of subsequent missions after he developed Meniere's disease. The symptoms of the disease made space flight far too dangerous. However, the disease may have saved his life. It most likely kept him off of Apollo 1, a mission which met with tragedy when a cabin fire during training ultimately killed all three astronauts on board. Eventually, surgery enabled him to return to work and eventually fly on board the moon-bound Apollo 14 ...

He Was the First Astronaut Millionaire During the years when Shepard suffered from Ménière's disease, which causes vertigo and nausea, he considered leaving NASA, but ended up staying and taking a desk job as head of the astronaut office. He spent his free time investing in banks and real estate and soon became a millionaire. He retired from NASA in 1974 and became a chairman in Marathon Construction Company, and later president of a Coors beer distribution company in Houston. He died in 1998 due to complications from leukemia.