by Jack Keegan


Having been involved with the early space race I got to know all of those astronauts. I have been to Kennedy and Johnson Space centers many, many times covering those flights. The one that I got to know best was Alan Shepard. He had been our color guy for many of the flights. He was a real down to earth guy, loved an occasional drink, played practical jokes and was very knowledge about the entire space program. I had many interesting moments with him.

When the Space Mountain was opened in Disney World, a group of Astronauts were invited to the first operation. Requested to participate were the six surviving members of the original Mercury Seven. Alan Shepard, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Walter Schirra, Donald Slayton and the widow of Virgil Grissom.

I best recollect his telling me about the ride in Space Mountain. He went on to say that he was more terrified on that ride, than when he sat atop the Atlas rocket for his first ride in space. After a number of people were injured the ride closed for sometime, it was rehabilitated and reopened a few years later.

Here area few Alan Shepard quotes:

Shortly before the launch, Shepard stated "Please, dear God, don't let me f-- up."[1] This has since become known among aviators as "Shepard's Prayer."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.'

Alan Shepard waited in the spacecraft for four hours. The weather caused part of the delay. Clouds would prevent filming of the launch. And some last-minute repairs were made to his radio system. Tired of waiting, he told the ground crew, "Why don't you fellows solve your little problems and light this candle.”

Shepard died of leukemia near his home in Pebble Beach, California on July 21, 1998, two years after being diagnosed with that disease. His wife of 53 years, the former Louise Brewer, died five weeks afterward. Both were cremated, and their ashes were committed to the sea .

They had three daughters, Laura (born in 1947), Juliana (born in 1951) and Alice born (1951)


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