Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998)was an american naval aviator and astronaut who became second person, and the first American in space, was born on November 18, 1923 in (East) Derry, New Hampshire. He grew up in East Derry and attended school at the small one-room schoolhouse in town. His fascination with interest in flight began early on. When he was just a boy he took odd jobs at the local airfield to learn about planes.

Shepard attended the Admiral Farragut Academy for a year before entering Annapolis Naval Academy. He served as an ensign in the Pacific during World War II on the Destroyer Cogswell shortly after graduation. After he returned from the war he married Louise Brewer, whom he met at the Naval Academy and remained married to for 53 years before his death on July 22, 1998.

Eager to learn how to fly, Shepard earned his wings in 1947, after naval flight training at Pensacola, Florida and Corpus Christie, Texas. He served several tours of duty in the Mediterranean with Fighter Squadron 42 out of Norfolk, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida before attending the United States Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland in 1950. He tested high-altitude aircraft and in-flight fueling systems, and made some of the first angled carrier deck landings.

In 1959, Rear Admiral Shepard and six other pilots were chosen by the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) out of 110 top military test pilots, to be part of Project Mercury, the first manned space program in the United States.

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard was the pilot of the Freedom 7 spacecraft which launched him into space by a Redstone Rocket. The flight took him on a ballistic trajectory suborbital flight and carried him to an altitude of 116 statute miles. The flight lasted 15-minutes and ended with a splashdown 302 statute miles down the Atlantic Missile Range. This successful flight made Shepard an instant national hero. The next day he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by President Kennedy and a parade in Washington that drew 250,000 spectators. Parades were also held in his honor in New York and Los Angeles.

In 1963, Shepard was named Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA. This appointment made him responsible for coordination and control of all activities involving NASA astronauts.

He was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease.

Ménière's disease (pronounced /meɪnˈjɛərz/) is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance to a varying degree. It is characterized by episodes of vertigo and tinnitus and progressive hearing loss, usually in one ear.
Classic Ménière's" is considered to comprise the following four symptoms:

Periodic episodes of rotary vertigo or dizziness.
Fluctuating, progressive, unilateral (in one ear) or bilateral (in both ears) hearing loss, usually in lower frequencies.
Unilateral or bilateral tinnitus.
A sensation of fullness or pressure in one or both ears.
Attacks of vertigo can be severe, incapacitating, and unpredictable and can last anywhere from minutes to hours, but no longer than 24 hours. This combines with an increase in volume of tinnitus and temporary, albeit significant, hearing loss. Hearing may improve after an attack, but often becomes progressively worse.
Some sufferers experience what are informally known as "drop attacks"—a sudden, severe attack of dizziness or vertigo that causes the sufferer, if not seated, to fall without warning.
An acute attack of Ménière's disease is generally believed to result from fluctuating pressure of the fluid within the inner ear. A system of membranes, called the membranous labyrinth, contains a fluid called endolymph. The membranes can become dilated like a balloon when pressure increases. This is called "hydrops". One way for this to happen is when the drainage system, called the endolymphatic duct or sac is blocked. In some cases, the endolymphatic duct may be obstructed by scar tissue, or may be narrow from birth. In some cases there may be too much fluid secreted by the Stria Vascularis.
In extremely severe cases, treatments that deaden the inner ear such as gentamicin injections or surgery may be considered. A surgical treatment is used in which the vestibular nerve is clipped. Another operation, called a labyrinthectomy is recommended in persons who have lost all usable hearing or in whom vestibular nerve section is considered too dangerous.A third procedure, the endolymphatic shunt procedure, is used by some doctors to relieve pressure in the inner ear. 
Alan shepard was unable to fly for several years because of this condition. He was restored to full flight status in May of 1969, following corrective surgery.

He completed his second space flight in 1971 as commander of Apollo 14, America's third successful lunar landing mission. He was 47 years old, making him the oldest astronaut in the NASA program. The landing was the most accurate landing of the entire Apollo program and was the first mission to broadcast pictures in color on television. The broadcast allowed the nation to watch as Shepard struck golf balls along the surface of the moon.

Upon his return, he returned to his duties as Chief of the Astronaut Office and was promoted to Rear Admiral. He retired from NASA and the Navy on August 1, 1974.

Shepard was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996. He passed away in Pebble Beach, California two years later at the age of 74.

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