13 Facts about Astronaut Alan Shepard, the First American in Space

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American astronaut in when the Mercury spacecraft Freedom 7 on a suborbital flight, soaring 116 miles above and then splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean after 15.5 minutes. Ten years later, Shepard became the to walk on the —and the oldest, at 47— when he took part in the Apollo 14 lunar landing. Shepard is remembered as a complex man who lived an outsized life. With that in mind, here are 13 interesting facts about Alan Shepard.

1. Alan Shepard went to class in a one-room schoolhouse.

on November 18, 1923, in East Derry, New Hampshire, a one-room schoolhouse during his early years. He then at Pinkerton Academy, an independent day and boarding school, where he received good grades—particularly in math. Shepard graduated in 1940 and went on to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

2. Alan Shepard was almost expelled from flight school.

Shepard graduated from the naval academy in 1944 and then enrolled in flight school at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas. Shepard was a mediocre student and was from the program; he then decided to take private flying lessons. He earned his civilian pilot's license, his skills improved, and he earned above average ratings. His final test included six perfect landings on the aircraft carrier USS Saipan.