The Department of the Navy has announced the naming of the Navy's newest combat logistics force underway replenishment naval vessel, the USNS Alan Shepard, to honor the first American in space, Rear Adm. Alan B. Shepard Jr.
Like the legendary explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, for whom the first ship of the class was named, Shepard bravely volunteered to explore the unknown and became the first American in space. Thus began one of the most challenging endeavors in human history: the manned exploration of space.
Shepard graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. in 1944. He served aboard destroyers in the Pacific during World War II and later entered flight training, receiving his designation as a naval aviator in 1947. Shepard served several tours in fleet squadrons and was selected to attend the Navy Test Pilot School in 1950. He logged more than 8,000 hours of flying time.
In 1959, Shepard was one of seven men chosen by NASA for the Mercury manned space flight program. Two years later, he became the first American to journey into space in the Freedom 7 spacecraft launched by a Redstone rocket on a suborbital flight. He reached an altitude of 116 miles.
In 1963, he was designated chief of the Astronaut Office with responsibility for monitoring the coordination, scheduling and control of all activities involving NASA astronauts. Shepard made his second space flight as spacecraft commander on Apollo 14 in 1971. He was accompanied on the third U.S. lunar landing mission by Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot and Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot. Shepard logged 216 hours and 57 minutes in space, of which 9 hours and 17 minutes were spent in lunar surface extravehicular activity. He resumed his duties as chief of the Astronaut Office in June 1971 and served in this capacity until he retired from NASA and the Navy on Aug. 1, 1974.
After his Navy and NASA careers, he entered private business in Houston and served as the president of the Mercury Seven Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides college science scholarships for deserving students. Shepard died July 21, 1998 at the age of 74.
The ship that will bear his name is designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea while providing replenishment services to U.S. and NATO ships. The USNS Alan Shepard will directly contribute to the ability of the Navy to maintain a forward presence by providing logistic lift from sources of supply either in port or at sea from specially equipped merchant ships. These ships transfer cargo to station ships and other naval warfare forces at sea, including ammunition, food, fuel, repair parts, ship store items and expendable supplies and material.
Due to its multiple capabilities, this class of ships will replace the current capability of the T-AE 26 class (ammunition ship), T-AFS 1/8 class (combat stores ship) and, when operating in concert with a T-AO class ship (oiler), the AOE 1 class (fast combat support ship). To conduct vertical replenishment, the ship will support two military logistics helicopters.
The USNS Alan Shepard, being built in San Diego by General Dynamics' National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, will be 689 feet long and 106 feet wide; and able to carry 41,187 metric tons of cargo, a maximum of 26,000 barrels of fuel and 1.38 million square feet of cargo. The diesel-electric-drive ship will have a range of 14,000 miles at a speed of 20 knots.
For additional information about this class of ship, please visit the Navy Fact File at: http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4400&tid= 500&ct=4 .