Moon, Alan Shepard, Apollo 14, NASA Governor John H Sununu Reminisces about Alan Shepard's Mission to the Moon
It is a year of anniversaries for one of the namesakes of the center admiral alan shepard 2021 is the 60th anniversary of admiral shepard, going into space flying 115 miles up on a redstone rocket to become the first american in space of 1961.. Ten years later, which now makes that the 50th anniversary uh alan shepard commanding the apollo 14 mission to the moon and admiral shepard, became the fifth american of a total of 12 americans to walk on the moon uh. He made it a little bit of a special jaunt on the moon uh when he connected a six iron head to a shovel and uh hit. Two golf balls on the moon, so admiral shepard became the first american, the first anyone to hit golf balls on the moon. He served his country. Well, he had been a graduate of the naval academy. He served in world war ii and then became part of the original mercury seven astronauts. He worked his way through gemini program, which was the follow up to mercury and uh into the apollo program, where he commanded. The apollo 14 mission, admiral shepard, was born in derry. New hampshire went to high school at pinkerton academy and then went on to the naval academy, so he is a real son of new hampshire and admiral shepard and uh christa mcauliffe uh. The two namesakes of the discovery center are real heroes in and pioneers in the space program. It’S interesting that my own professional career parallels the time frame, uh of admiral shepard’s involvement in the space program.
I went to mit in september of 1957., one month later, in october of 1957, the soviet union launched sputnik the first satellite to orbit the world and, as the world listened to the beep beep beep of sputnik as it went around, i think it inspired a lot Of folks uh, including test pilots like admiral shepard, to get into the space program that was initiated by president eisenhower. Four years later, i was getting ready to graduate in june of 1961. that year, admiral shepard became the first american to be launched into space, but the parallel continues. I i worked on uh the space program as a consultant to the mit instrumentation lab uh. It had originally been the charles draper lab, but then became the instrumentation lab and really was uh. The institute uh, in which all the guidance systems and the computers for the apollo program were developed, and one of the projects i worked on was the cooling systems for the guidance systems and the cooling systems for the computers. In addition to that, the small company – i was a part of uh developed the pumps and the cooling pumps for the backpacks. So we we continued to watch not only as americans with a strong interest in the space program uh but as eager engineers happy to be a part of what we thought was a very special research and development and eventually successful project which sent six successful. U.S missions to the moon and ended up with 12 americans able to walk on the moon.
Although i never had a chance to meet admiral shepard personally, i did get a chance to meet his daughter laura when i was asked to be the principal speaker at the christening of the usns alan shepard, a naval ship uh commissioned uh to honor alan shepard’s work For the navy, it was a wonderful event. We had a chance to chat laura and i had a chance to chat about the great achievements of this wonderful hero. Who was her father and who was to me an example of the kind of contributions. Heroes in new hampshire have made to the space program and to the u.s navy, as we look back on what happened in 1961 and 1971 and recognized that only two or three years after alan shepard set foot on the moon. The apollo program was canceled and we have not had another moon mission since we can ask ourselves uh what kind of lessons did we learn? First of all, let me put into context the time frame of this 60th anniversary. We are 60 years since alan shepard became the first american in space. If i take myself back to that 60 years and look back a bit in 1903, the wright brothers flew the first airplane ever. The first airplane flight took place in 1903 at kitty, hawk from 1903 to 1961 is 58 years, two years less than the 60 years between 1961 and today, and so it it. It is very impressive to realize the tremendous scientific and engineering developments that took place from the first airplane flight to the time that alan shepard was the first american launched into space.
Technology has continued to develop, perhaps not at the same fast pace as at that time, and so it’s really surprising that we have not had any more moon missions since 1973., it’s important that we recognize that that kind of success is important to stimulate technical development. That kind of success is important to stimulate a commitment and an interest of our citizens in perhaps uh understanding what goes on beyond our planet and, i think, it’s, an important stimulus and an interest to keep young people committed to the kind of technology. Achievements that make a huge difference if there’s any message in what alan shepard did, i think it is number one be smart. He was an excellent student, he did well and he understood the technology that was used being used to send him into space. He was bold. He was aggressive uh, he thought big and he made a huge difference as a pioneer in the space program.