After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1944, Shepard entered naval service the end of WWII. After the war, he went to flight school and became a Navy pilot and eventually a test pilot, logging more than 8,000 flight hours. In 1959, he joined NASA and was chosen to pilot the Freedom 7 for America’s first manned space mission. Launching on 5 May 1961, Shepard’s suborbital flight lasted 15 minutes and took him 116 miles above the earth. Shepard continued to work for NASA, although health issues kept him from space until 1971, when he commanded the Apollo 14 mission to the moon, where he famously hit two golf balls. Shepard retired from NASA and the Navy as a rear admiral in 1974.