Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This day in History – May 5th 1961


I know a lot of you are going to think, OK… goes a Cinco de Mayo posting…but I am an American and want to draw everyone’s attention to another great event in history, one that took place May 5th 1961.

On that day Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space, with a fifteen minute suborbital flight.image

Think about that for a minute and let it sink in.  49 Years ago, America put it’s first man into space (barely edged out by Russia). 

How cool is that.

                                             (Picture Taken from THIS LIFE Article)

But when you look at Alan Shepard, you realize…..his life is full of cool.

Before he became an Astronaut, he was a test pilot for the US Navy, logging  over 8,000 hours flying time (3,700 hours in jet aircraft).  WOW.

In 1959, Shepard was one of 110 military test pilots to go through initial testing to become an Astronaut for the newly formed NASA, eventually being selected as a member of the Mercury 7 Team, and subsequently in January of 1961….He was chosen for the first American manned mission into space, Freedom 7.

On May 5th 1961, Shepard had probably the 2nd or 3rd most famous quote in space history. 

Just before the launch, Shepard said to himself: "Don't fuck up, Shepard..." , although this is quoted as "Dear Lord, please don't let me fuck up" in GREAT movie The Right Stuff (Post 1979 Randy). Due though to the media exposure,  the misquoted latter is has since become known among aviators as "Shepard's Prayer."

Another funny quote to come out of this mission, and relevant to me because it is referenced in the movie Armageddon comes from Gene Kranz in his book Failure Is Not an Option:

When reporters asked Shepard what he thought about as he sat atop the Redstone rocket, waiting for liftoff, he had replied, 'The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder.

Later, Shepard was scheduled to pilot the Mercury-Atlas 10 Freedom 7-II, three day extended duration mission in October 1963. The MA-10 mission was cancelled on June 13, 1963. He was the back-up pilot for Gordon "Gordo" Cooper for the MA-9 mission.

Yet Shepard was still destined to return to space.

Originally slotted to pilot Gemini 3, he lost his flight status due to a problem with his inner ear.  After having it surgically corrected, Shepard was then selected to Command the ill-fated Apollo 13 Mission, only to drop out because he felt he needed more training.

Alan Shepard did finally make it to the moon in Apolo 14, where at  age 47, and the oldest astronaut in the program, he commanded America's third successful lunar landing mission.

Shepard piloted his Lunar Module Antares to the most accurate landing of the entire Apollo program.

Ever the jokester, Shepard added another distinction to his long list of records while on the mission, becoming the 1st man to golf on moon.  Using a modified Wilson six-iron head attached to a lunar sample scoop handle, he hit two golf balls one-handed,  driving the second, as he jokingly put it, "miles and miles and miles."

Following Apollo 14, Shepard returned to his position as Chief of the Astronaut Office in June, 1971. He was promoted to Rear Admiral before finally retiring both from the Navy and NASA on August 1, 1974.

While all of these things are great accomplishments, fitting to appear on any website, history book or Blog……I know you guys are asking: “Why is this on Smokes and Booze”?

Well, after ALL OF THAT……Alan Shepard went on to become a local beer distributor for Coors.

And now you know…….the rest of the Story.

Cheers to you Alan, and God’s Speed.


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