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US Navy honors astronaut Shepard

Vessel naming salutes his feat

WASHINGTON -- The US Navy yesterday christened the USNS Alan Shepard, honoring New Hampshire native Alan B. Shepard Jr., the first American in space. The christening was held in San Diego.

A rocket-powered suborbital flight on May 5, 1961, made Shepard, of Derry, the first American in space. He died in 1998.

Senator John R. Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, said the christening of the Alan Shepard honors the legacy and historic contributions of the state's native son. He said that Shepard led a distinguished career in the Navy and at NASA and that commissioning a ship in his name is a fitting tribute to him.

Sununu's father, former New Hampshire governor John H. Sununu, delivered the ceremony's keynote address at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co.

Shepard was born and raised in East Derry. In 1971, he led the Apollo XIV mission to the moon. He was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and received two NASA Distinguished Service Medals.

The Shepard is a combat support ship and is longer than two football fields. Its primary mission will be to deliver supplies to Navy ships, transfer cargo, and provide logistical support within a single carrier strike group. The ship measures 689 feet long and has a top speed of 20 knots.

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