Home / Light This Candle : The Life & Times of Alan Shepard–America’s First Spaceman

Light This Candle : The Life & Times of Alan Shepard–America’s First Spaceman

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The 15-minute Freedom 7 flight in 1961 made astronaut Alan Shepard America’s first man in space and its first hero of the space age. One of the two best pilots among the original Mercury Seven, Shepard was selected over the other, John Glenn, and his career culminated in taking Apollo 14 to the moon. The driven quality about him sometimes made him unappealing and even downright appalling, but it helped him fight off Meniere’s disease to get back into space while simultaneously building a business empire.

The author has done a good job on putting together a thorough biography of a man who fiercely guarded his privacy. The information gathered to create this book required much research by the author and the results that he has pieced together reveal insight into one of America’s most enigmatic heroes.

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  • Re: Meniere’s disease (rotatory vertigo), a serious illness for anyone to endure, but doubly devastating for a pilot:

    Periodic attacks of vertigo (the so-called Ménière’s “attack”) is the most disruptive of the symptoms to the patient. It is usually the vertigo attack which causes the patient to seek medical treatment. Typically, vertigo occurs in the form of a series of attacks over a period of weeks or months, interspersed by periods of remission of variable duration. The attack consists of a period of dizziness or vertigo (dizziness may include a feeling of unsteadiness; the term vertigo is normally reserved for the perception of spinning). The sensation of spinning may produce nystagmus (a beating of the eyes from side to side), nausea, vomiting, sweating and all the symptoms normally associated with extreme motion sickness. The onset of vertigo may be preceded by a sensation of fullness or pressure in the ear, increased hearing loss and tinnitus, as described below. The onset is frequently sudden, reaching peak intensity within minutes and lasting for an hour or more before subsiding. Unsteadiness may persist for the following hours or days.

    Vertigo must be one of the worst chronic afflictions to affect the body. The vertigo patient perceives either that the world is spinning around them or that they themselves are spinning. With many other disabilities, some portion of a normal life can be continued. Vertigo disrupts virtually every aspect of life, since the patient loses the ability to do anything normally, especially when movement is involved. In addition to the obvious hazard of falling, moving around is hampered by the fact that even small head movements often make the spinning sensation worse. The resulting nausea, sweating and vomiting combine to make the patient subjectively very “ill”. Vertigo can totally incapacitate the individual, so they cannot function. Often the patient will confine themselves to bed until the symptoms subside.

  • Thanks for this post and the book’s link. Thanks also for the wonderful follow-up info, Dr. Pat!

  • Thanks for this. You may also enjoy a book I am currently reading *Aurora 7* by Thomas Mallon. It is a historical novel set on the day of Scott Carpenter’s orbital mission. The period details are exact and really invoke the day (May 24, 1962).