Skip to main content

Alan Shepard

Boris Chaliapin, 1904 - May 1979
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., 18 Nov 1923 - 21 Jul 1998
Watercolor and gouache on illustration board
Sight (Verified): 44.1 x 31.1 cm (17 3/8 x 12 1/4")
Mat: 71.1 × 55.9 cm (28 × 22")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine
Restrictions & Rights
© Chris Murphy
Object number
Exhibition Label
On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to journey into space, reaching an altitude of 116 miles. Although Shepard’s brief venture—it lasted only fifteen minutes—could not match the recent orbital journey of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the mission was critically important for national prestige, especially with all of the world watching. Shepard became an instant hero with the pinpoint splashdown of his capsule, Freedom 7, in the Atlantic. "This is just a baby step," predicted his wife Louise, "compared to what we will see" in the future. Ten years later, Shepard made his second space flight as commander of Apollo 14 and became the only Mercury astronaut to walk on the moon. That critical mission spanned ten days.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection