Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. was an American astronaut, naval aviator, and test pilot.
Shepard was selected as one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts in 1959, and in May 1961 he made the first manned Project Mercury flight, Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3), in a spacecraft he named Freedom 7. His craft entered space, but did not achieve orbit. He became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space, and the first person to manually control the orientation of his spacecraft. In the final stages of Project Mercury, Shepard was scheduled to pilot the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10), which was planned as a three-day mission, but the mission was cancelled.
Project Gemini followed on from Project Mercury, taking its name from the fact that it carried two men instead of just one. After the Mercury-Atlas 10 mission was cancelled, Shepard was designated as the commander of the first manned Gemini mission, with Thomas P. Stafford chosen as his pilot. In late 1963, Shepard began to experience episodes of extreme dizziness and nausea, accompanied by a loud, clanging noise in the left ear. The doctors diagnosed Ménière's disease, a condition in which fluid pressure builds up in the inner ear. This and other medical conditions caused Shepard's removal from flight status, and he was designated Chief of the Astronaut Office in November 1963. He thereby became responsible for NASA astronaut training.
In 1968, Shepard was informed that an otologist in Los Angeles had developed a cure for Ménière's disease. Shepard flew to Los Angeles, where he met with Dr. William F. House. House proposed to open Shepard's mastoid bone and make a tiny hole in the endolymphatic sac. A small tube was inserted to drain excess fluid. The surgery was conducted in early 1969 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Los Angeles, where Shepard checked in under the pseudonym of Victor Poulos. The surgery was successful, and he was restored to full flight status on May 7, 1969.
Shepard made his second space flight as Commander of Apollo 14 from January 31 to February 9, 1971. It was America's third successful lunar landing mission. Shepard piloted the lunar module Antares to the most accurate landing of the entire Apollo program. He became the fifth and, at the age of 47, the oldest man to walk on the Moon, and the only one of the Mercury Seven astronauts to do so.