Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard poses beside the American flag during a moonwalk in February 1971. Shepard was the first American to fly in space, but had been grounded by a health problem. After surgery corrected the problem he was returned to flight status and guided his lunar module, Antares, to a pinpoint landing in a region known as Fra Mauro. [NASA]
APOLLO 14: Okay, Houston. The crew of Antares is leaving Fra Mauro Base. CAPCOM: Roger, Al. You and Ed did a great job. PAO: And with this closeout, Al Shepard, now at age two score and seven years, becomes the undisputed leader in time spent working on the Moon -- more than nine hours.
For Alan Shepard, it was a long journey to the Moon. In 1961, he became the first American to fly in space. His flight aboard "Freedom 7" lasted just 15 minutes, but it made him an American hero.
Soon after the flight, though, Shepard developed an inner-ear problem that left him dizzy and nauseated. He was grounded. He stayed with NASA, though, becoming chief of the astronaut office. But he wanted another crack at spaceflight, so in 1969, he underwent an operation that corrected his ear problems. Shepard was restored to flight status, and was assigned to command Apollo 14.
In their Lunar Module Antares, Shepard and Ed Mitchell touched down on the Moon on February 5th, 1971. They stayed for 33 hours, setting up instruments and gathering more than a hundred pounds of lunar rock and soil. They left the Moon 40 years ago today, returning to crewmate Stuart Roosa in lunar orbit.
APOLLO 14: 3, 2, 1, 0, ignition -- we have ignition. What a liftoff! And liftoff.
Look for the Moon descending the western sky this evening. It has a bright companion to its left: the planet Jupiter. More about that tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010
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