Shepard was born in East Derry, New Hampshire, on November 18, 1923, and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the US Naval Academy in 1944. Before joining NASA, he flew as a Navy pilot.

Shepard features in one of the most memorable images from the US space programme - he was the first golfer to play with a lunar handicap. Unfortunately the images of an astronaut playing golf on the Moon increased pressure on NASA to cut back the Apollo programme. Shepard later headed NASA's astronaut office before retiring in 1974. Afterwards he became president of the Mercury Seven Foundation, a charity that awards science and engineering scholarships.