Alan Bartlett «Al» Shepard, Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998), (RADM,USN), was an American naval officer and aviator, test pilot, flag officer, one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts, and businessman, who in 1961 became the second person and the first American to travel into space.
This Mercury flight was designed to enter space, but not to achieve orbit. Ten years later, at age 47 and the oldest astronaut in the program, Shepard commanded the Apollo 14 mission, piloting the lander to the most accurate landing of the Apollo missions.
He became the fifth and oldest person to walk on the Moon, and the only astronaut of the Mercury Seven to walk on the Moon. During the mission, he hit two golf balls on the lunar surface.
These were his only two space flights, as his flight status was interrupted for five years (1964–69) during the Mercury and Gemini programs by Ménière’s disease, an inner-ear disease that was surgically corrected before his Moon flight. Shepard served as Chief of the Astronaut Office from November 1963 – July 1969 (the approximate period of his grounding), and from June 1971 – August 1, 1974 (from his last flight to his retirement). He was promoted from Captain to Rear Admiral on August 25, 1971. He retired from the United States Navy and NASA in 1974.
After leaving NASA, he became a successful businessman. He died of leukemia on July 21, 1998, five weeks before the death of his wife of 53 years.