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McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center Celebrates Namesake Alan Shepard’s 100th Birthday

Concord, NH – Saturday, November 18, 2023 marks 100 years since the birth of pilot, astronaut, and New Hampshire-native Adm. Alan B. Shepard, Jr. The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center will be commemorating the occasion with a birthday celebration. Visit the Discovery Center from 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM on November 18 to participate in hands-on activities inspired by Shepard’s career, view a special version of our Tonight’s Sky planetarium show where you’ll explore Apollo 14’s landing site on the Moon, and take a photo with the Center’s astronaut mascot. In addition, the day will include a special exhibition about Shepard and his contributions to NASA, as well as a mid-day story time for young visitors and live demonstrations from Discovery Center educators explaining how Shepard’s first trip to space led to the invention of something nearly everyone has used at one point in their lives: diapers! The day will end with a celebratory rocket launch of a model of the Redstone rocket Shepard piloted during his Project Mercury mission. These family-friendly activities are all included with general admission, and planetarium shows are available for an additional cost. More information about this event can be found on the Discovery Center’s website and social media pages.

Alan Shepard was one of several NASA astronauts with connections to New Hampshire. Shepard was born in Derry, NH in 1923, growing up in the town and attending Pinkerton Academy. From a young age, he showed an interest in flight, and, while attending the Academy, he would pick up jobs at the Manchester Airfield in exchange for flight lessons. Upon graduation from Pinkerton, Shepard began his career in the Navy by enrolling in the United State Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1940. Shepard served in the Pacific theater of World War II, and throughout his time in the Navy, he logged more than 8,000 hours of flying time as an aviator and test pilot.

In April 1959, Shepard was named as one of the Mercury astronauts, becoming the first American in space in 1961 during the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission, where the full flight lasted 15 minutes and 22 seconds. When the Mercury missions concluded, Shepard joined the Project Gemini team. However, due to dizziness caused by an inner-ear condition, Shepard was unable to fly in any Gemini missions. Instead, he was designated as Chief of the Astronaut Office, where he oversaw all activities of NASA astronauts. Shepard continued to serve in the role until he retired from NASA in 1974. He did step away from his position, though, to serve as


Spacecraft Commander for Apollo 14 in 1971. Shepard received surgery to cure his ear disorder, restoring his full flight status. During this mission, Shepard became the fifth person to walk on the Moon, the only Mercury Seven astronaut to travel to the Moon, and the only person (so far!) to hit a golf ball on the Moon. After he retired from NASA, Shepard served on boards of several corporations, co-founded the Mercury Seven foundation to provide scholarships to students pursuing degrees in engineering and science, and co-published the book, Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon. Shepard passed away in 1998, and, today, he is memorialized and honored in many ways, both in New Hampshire and throughout the United States.

Dedicated to NH Space Pioneers Christa McAuliffe and Alan Shepard, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center features 21st century interactive exhibits on aviation, astronomy, Earth and space science, a full-dome, 10K planetarium, and a variety of science, technology, and engineering and mathematics programs. The engaging, robust educational programs are geared towards families, teens, seniors, students, community groups and lifelong learners. For more information, visit