Tag Archives: NASA

Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (18 November 1923–21 July 1998)

Alan Shepard suited up before the launch of Apollo 14. (NASA)
Alan Shepard suited up before the launch of Apollo 14. (NASA)

ALAN B. SHEPARD, JR. (REAR ADMIRAL, USN, RET.)
NASA ASTRONAUT (DECEASED)

PERSONAL DATA: Born November 18, 1923, in East Derry, New Hampshire. Died on July 21, 1998. His wife, Louise, died on August 25, 1998. They are survived by daughters Julie, Laura and Alice, and six grandchildren.

EDUCATION: Attended primary and secondary schools in East Derry and Derry, New Hampshire; received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1944, an Honorary Master of Arts degree from Dartmouth College in 1962, and Honorary Doctorate of Science from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) in 1971, and an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Franklin Pierce College in 1972. Graduated Naval Test Pilot School in 1951; Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island in 1957.

ORGANIZATIONS: Fellow of the American Astronautical Society and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots; member of the Rotary, the Kiwanis, the Mayflower Society, the Order of the Cincinnati, and the American Fighter Aces; honorary member, Board of Directors for the Houston School for Deaf Children, Director, National Space Institute, and Director, Los Angeles Ear Research Institute.

SPECIAL HONORS: Congressional Medal of Honor (Space); Awarded two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Navy Astronaut Wings, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, and the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross; recipient of the Langley Medal (highest award of the Smithsonian Institution) on May 5, 1964, the Lambert Trophy, the Kinchloe Trophy, the Cabot Award, the Collier Trophy, the City of New York Gold Medal (1971), Achievement Award for 1971. Shepard was appointed by the President in July 1971 as a delegate to the 26th United Nations General Assembly and served through the entire assembly which lasted from September to December 1971.

EXPERIENCE: Shepard began his naval career, after graduation from Annapolis, on the destroyer COGSWELL, deployed in the pacific during World War II. He subsequently entered flight training at Corpus Christi, Texas, and Pensacola, Florida, and received his wings in 1947. His next assignment was with Fighter Squadron 42 at Norfolk, Virginia, and Jacksonville, Florida. He served several tours aboard aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean while with this squadron.

In 1950, he attended the United States Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. After graduation, he participated in flight test work which included high- altitude tests to obtain data on light at different altitudes and on a variety of air masses over the American continent; and test and development experiments of the Navy’s in-flight refueling system, carrier suitability trails of the F2H3 Banshee, and Navy trials of the first angled carrier deck. He was subsequently assigned to Fighter Squadron 193 at Moffett Field, California, a night fighter unit flying Banshee jets. As operations officer of this squadron, he made two tours to the Western pacific onboard the carrier ORISKANY.

He returned to Patuxent for a second tour of duty and engaged in flight testing the F3H Demon, F8U Crusader, F4D Skyray, and F11F Tigercat. He was also project test pilot on the F5D Skylancer, and his last five months at Patuxent were spent as an instructor in the Test Pilot School. He later attended the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, and upon graduating in 1957 was subsequently assigned to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, as aircraft readiness officer.

He has logged more than 8,000 hours flying time–3,700 hours in jet aircraft.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Rear Admiral Shepard was one of the Mercury astronauts named by NASA in April 1959, and he holds the distinction of being the first American to journey into space. On May 5, 1961, in the Freedom 7 spacecraft, he was launched by a Redstone vehicle on a ballistic trajectory suborbital flight–a flight which carried him to an altitude of 116 statute miles and to a landing point 302 statute miles down the Atlantic Missile Range.

In 1963, he was designated Chief of the Astronaut Office with responsibility for monitoring the coordination, scheduling, and control of all activities involving NASA astronauts. This included monitoring the development and implementation of effective training programs to assure the flight readiness of available pilot/non-pilot personnel for assignment to crew positions on manned space flights; furnishing pilot evaluations applicable to the design, construction, and operations of spacecraft systems and related equipment; and providing qualitative scientific and engineering observations to facilitate overall mission planning, formulation of feasible operational procedures, and selection and conduct of specific experiments for each flight. He was restored to full flight status in May 1969, following corrective surgery for an inner ear disorder.

Shepard made his second space flight as spacecraft commander on Apollo 14, January 31 – February 9, 1971. He was accompanied on man’s third lunar landing mission by Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot, and Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot. Maneuvering their lunar module, “Antares,” to a landing in the hilly upland Fra Mauro region of the moon, Shepard and Mitchell subsequently deployed and activated various scientific equipment and experiments and collected almost 100 pounds of lunar samples for return to earth. Other Apollo 14 achievements included: first use of Mobile Equipment Transporter (MET); largest payload placed in lunar orbit; longest distance traversed on the lunar surface; largest payload returned from the lunar surface; longest lunar surface stay time (33 hours); longest lunar surface EVA (9 hours and 17 minutes); first use of shortened lunar orbit rendezvous techniques; first use of colored TV with new vidicon tube on lunar surface; and first extensive orbital science period conducted during CSM solo operations.

Rear Admiral Shepard has logged a total of 216 hours and 57 minutes in space, of which 9 hours and 17 minutes were spent in lunar surface EVA.

He resumed his duties as Chief of the Astronaut Office in June 1971 and served in this capacity until he retired from NASA and the Navy on August 1, 1974.

Shepard was in private business in Houston, Texas. He served as the President of the Mercury Seven Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides college science scholarships for deserving students.

The above is the official NASA Biography of Alan Shepard from the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center web site:

http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/shepard-alan.html

Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., United States Navy.
Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., United States Navy.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 July 1969, 17:54:00 UTC, T + 124:22:00.79

The Ascent Stage of the Lunar Module Eagle (LM-5) approaches the Command/Service Module Columbia in Lunar Orbit, approximately 2130 UTC, 21 July 1969. (Michael Collins, NASA)

21 July 1969: After spending a total of 21 hours, 36 minutes, 21 seconds on the surface of The Moon, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fired the rocket engine of the Lunar Module’s Ascent Stage. The liftoff was at 17:54 UTC.

Three hours and forty minutes later, the Eagle ascent stage docked with Columbia, the Command/Service Module, in lunar orbit.

The Apollo 11 Command and Service Module, Columbia (CSM-107), in Lunar Orbit, as seen from the Lunar Module, Eagle. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 July 1969

Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. on the surface of The Moon, 21 July 1969. (Neil A. Armstrong, NASA AS11-40-5903HR)

21 July 1969: Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. on the surface of The Moon in a photograph taken by Neil Alden Armstrong.

The reflection of the Lunar Module Eagle and of Armstrong can be seen in Aldrin’s face plate.

Buzz Aldrin and the flag of the United States of America on the surface of The Moon, 21 July 1969. (Neil Armstong/NASA)

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. . . .”

—President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Buzz Aldrin in the Lunar Module Eagle after the EVA, 21 July 1969. (Neil Armstrong, NASA)
Buzz Aldrin in the Lunar Module Eagle after the EVA, 21 July 1969. (Neil Armstrong, NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 July 1969, 02:56:15 UTC, T + 109:24:15

Neil Armstrong steps onto the Moon, 10:56:15 p.m. EDT, 20 July 1969. (NASA)

10:56:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Sunday, 20 July 1969 (02:56:15, 21 July 1969 UTC): 109 hours, 24 minutes, 15 seconds after the Apollo 11/Saturn V was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA Astronaut Neil Alden Armstrong set foot on the surface of the Moon.

“That’s one small step for a man. . . one giant leap for mankind.”

This was the most significant event in the history of mankind.

Neil Alden Armstrong inside the Lunar Module Eagle on the surface of the Moon, 21 July 1969. (Edwin E. Aldrin/NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 July 1961, 12:20:36 UTC, T minus Zero

Mercury-Redstone 4 (Liberty Bell 7) launch at Pad 5, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, 12 20 36 UTC, 21 July 1961. (NASA)

21 July 1961: At 7:20:36 a.m. Eastern Time (12:20:36 UTC), NASA Astronaut, Captain Virgil Ivan (“Gus”) Grissom, United States Air Force, was launched from Launch Complex 5, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, aboard Mercury-Redstone 4.

This was the second manned flight of Project Mercury. Grissom’s Mercury space craft was named Liberty Bell 7. The Mercury space craft was a one-man capsule built by McDonnell Aircraft. The Redstone launch vehicle was a highly-modified version of a liquid-fueled U.S. Army ballistic missile.

Gus Grissom in his full-pressure suit awaits orders to man his spacecraft. After sleepin for about four hours, Grissom was awakened at 1:15 a.m. He entered the Liberty Bell 7 at 3:58 a.m., 3 hours, 22 minutes prior to launch. (NASA)

The Redstone rocket accelerated to Mach 6.97 (5,168 miles per hour, 8,317 kilometers per hour). Grissom experienced a maximum 6.3 gs of acceleration on climbout.When the booster engine shut down, the Mercury capsule was released and continued upward on a ballistic trajectory. The peak altitude reached by Liberty Bell 7 was 102.8 nautical miles (118.3 statute miles, or 190.4 kilometers). The maximum velocity, relative to Earth, was 6,618 feet per second (2,017 meters per second). Grissom was “weightless” for 5.00 minutes. The capsule traveled downrange and landed in the Atlantic Ocean 262.5 nautical (302.1 statute miles, or 486.2 kilometers) from Cape Canaveral. During the reentry phase, the maximum deceleration of Liberty Bell 7 reached 11.1 gs. Total duration of the flight was 15 minutes, 37 seconds.

Several minutes after landing in the ocean, the hatch of the spacecraft was jettisoned by explosive bolts¹ and the craft began to fill with water. Though one of the recovery helicopters, a Sikorsky HUS-1 Seahorse, Bu. No. 148755 ² (Call sign “Hunt Club 1”), piloted by Lieutenants James L. Lewis and John Reinhard, tried to recover Liberty Bell 7, it was too heavy and had to be released. The capsule sank to the ocean floor, 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) below. (The Mercury capsule was recovered from the sea 38 years later, 21 July 1999.) Grissom was picked up by the second helicopter, HUS-1 Bu. No. 148754, “Hunt Club 3.”

Hunt Club 1 attempts to lift Liberty Bell 7. The primary recovery ship, the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Randolph (CVS-15), is on the horizon. (NASA)

Virgil Ivan Grissom was born at Mitchell, Indiana, the second of five children. Upon graduation from high school during World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. After the war, he went to Purdue University and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in engineering, then joined the U.S. Air Force and was trained as a fighter pilot. He flew 100 combat missions in the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre during the Korean War. He attended a one year program at the Air Force Institute of Technology and earned a second Bachelor’s degree in aircraft engineering. Next he went to the test pilot school at Edwards AFB. After completion, he was assigned as a fighter test pilot at Wright-Patterson AFB.

One of 508 pilots who were considered by NASA for Project Mercury, Gus Grissom was in the group of 110 that were asked to attend secret meetings for further evaluation. From that group, 32 went on with the selection process and finally 18 were recommended for the program.  Grissom was one of the seven selected.

Gus Grissom in the cockpit of his 1963 Corvette Stingray.

Captain Grissom was the second American to “ride the rocket.” He named his space capsule Liberty Bell 7.  Next he orbited Earth as commander of Gemini III along with fellow astronaut John Young. He was back-up commander for Gemini VI-A, then went on to the Apollo Program.

As commander of AS-204 (Apollo I), LCOL Virgil I. Grissom, USAF was killed along with Ed White and Roger Chafee in a disastrous launch pad fire, 27 January 1967.

Gus Grissom was an Air Force Command Pilot with over 4,600 hours flight time. He was the first American astronaut to fly into space twice.

Project Mercury spacecraft under construction at McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. (NASA)

Liberty Bell 7 (Mercury spacecraft number 11) differed from Alan Shepard’s Mercury capsule with the addition of a large viewing window and a side hatch equipped with explosive bolts. There were also differences in the capsule’s instrument panel, as well as other improvements. The MR-4 capsule was delivered to Cape Canaveral on 7 March 1961. The space capsule was truncated cone with sides angled 20° from the longitudinal axis. It was 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters) long and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.892 meters). The total height of the spacecraft, from the tip of the aero spike to the booster adapter, was 26 feet, 1.26 inches (7.957 meters). At launch, Mercury 11 weighed approximately 2,835 pounds (1,286 kilograms), empty.

During flight outside the atmosphere, the Mercury spacecraft could be controlled in its pitch, roll and yaw axes by hydrogen peroxide-fueled reaction control thrusters. Both manual and automatic attitude control were available. It could not accelerate or decelerate (except for reentry) so it could not change its orbit.

The spacecraft cabin was pressurized to 5.5 psi with 100% oxygen. The pilot wore a B.F. Goodrich Mark IV Model 3 Type I full-pressure suit and flight helmet for protection in the event that cabin pressure was lost.

The Redstone MRLV rocket was a redesigned, “man rated” version of the Chrysler-built, United States Army M8 medium-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile. It was lengthened to provide greater fuel capacity, a pressurized instrumentation section was added, the control systems were simplified for greater reliability, and an inflight abort sensing system was installed. The rocket fuel was changed from hydrazine to ethyl alcohol. The cylindrical booster was 59.00 feet (17.983 meters) long and 5 feet, 10 inches (1.778 meters) in diameter. The rocket had four guidance fins with rudders mounted at the tail section. (Interestingly, the Redstone stood freely on the launch pad. No hold-downs were used. The guidance fins supported the entire weight of the vehicle.)

The Redstone MRLV was powered by a single NAA 75-110-A7 liquid-fueled engine built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. The A7 produced 78,000 pounds of thrust (346.96 kilonewtons) at Sea Level, and 89,000 pounds (395.89 kilonewtons) in vacuum, burning ethyl alcohol with liquid oxygen.

The total vehicle height of Mercury-Redstone 4, including the booster, adapter, capsule and escape tower, was 83.38 feet (25.414 meters). The total vehicle launch weight was approximately 66,000 pounds (29,937 kilograms).

Virgil Ivan (“Gus”) Grissom, NASA Project Mercury Astronaut. (Ralph Morse/LIFE Magazine)

¹ “The mystery of Grissom’s hatch was never solved to everyone’s satisfaction. Among the favorite hypotheses were that the exterior lanyard might have become entangled with the landing bag straps; that the ring seal might have been omitted on the detonation plunger, reducing the pressure necessary to actuate it; or that static electricity generated by the helicopter had fired the hatch cover. But with the spacecraft and its onboard evidence lying 15,000 feet down on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, it was impossible to determine the true cause. [377] The only solution was to draft a procedure that would preclude a recurrence: henceforth the astronaut would not touch the plunger pin until the helicopter hooked on and the line was taut. As it turned out, Liberty Bell 7 was the last manned flight in Project Mercury in which helicopter retrieval of the spacecraft was planned. In addition, Grissom would be the only astronaut who used the hatch without receiving a slight hand injury. As he later reminded Glenn, Schirra, and Cooper, this helped prove he had not touched his hatch plunger.”

This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, by Loyd S. Swenson, Jr., James M. Grimwood, and Charles C. Alexander. NASA Special Publication SP-4201, 1989

² After retiring from military service, Sikorsky HUS-1 Seahorse Bu. No. 147755 (redesignated UH-34D in 1962) was sold to the civil market, and was registered N4216H, 10 March 1981. It was owned by Orlando Helicopter Airways, Inc., Orlando, Florida. The FAA registration was cancelled in 2013. The status of the helicopter is not known.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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