CAPT. William M. Shepherd, USN (Ret.)

NASA Astronaut (Former)

William Shepherd has served as a Navy SEAL, NASA Astronaut, Program Manager, and Senior Government Official with the Department of Defense (DOD).  He started his military career in 1971 as an Underwater Demolition “Frogman”, and Navy SEAL, with assignments to the Pacific, Atlantic, and European theaters of operation.  In 1984, he was one of 17 Astronaut Candidates in NASA’s Astronaut Group 10.  Captain Shepherd flew as a NASA Mission Specialist and Flight Engineer on 3 Space Shuttle flights, missions that carried DOD and scientific payloads to space, performed materials and life science experiments in microgravity, and launched the interplanetary probe “Ulysses” into polar orbit of the Sun.  In 1993, Capt. Shepherd was selected to serve as Program Manager for the new International Space Station (ISS), leading a 16-nation partnership to design and build a new orbital “gateway” to space. 

In 1996 Capt. Shepherd was named by Vice President Gore and Russian Premier Chernomyrdin to command the “First Expedition” to the new space station.  Captain Shepherd and his Russian crewmates, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, trained for 4 ½ years in Moscow and Houston, launched to orbit from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket in October 2000, and docked with the Space Station two days later.  From Nov 2000 to March 2001,  Expedition One  brought the new station to life as they conducted 3 construction operations with Space Shuttle crews, managed two Soyuz and Progress dockings, and traveled 58,000,000 miles through space—equal to two-thirds the distance between Earth and Mars.  Today, the ISS is a robust 500-ton space “ship” in its 20th year of continuous human operations; a home to hundreds of astronaut-explorers on 65 expeditions, who have conducted thousands of hours of unique research activity. The ISS partnership formed 27 years ago remains a singular example of international cooperation in a very large and complex enterprise.  

Capt. Shepherd returned to the Navy in 2001 to serve as technical advisor to the Navy’s SEAL headquarters in California, and later was the first “Science Advisor” for U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in Tampa Fla. During his tour, he introduced mobile fabrication laboratories which placed engineers and small workshop facilities in remote forward bases and outposts in Afghanistan and other special operations locations, providing thousands of solutions and technology insertions “at the point of need”.  

Capt. Shepherd consults with government and industry organizations and is a member of Stevens Institute’s System Engineering Research Center (SERC).  He manages SERC’s Capstone Marketplace, a DOD-sponsored academic outreach program connecting military operators with undergraduate engineering students who design and build innovative hardware and software prototypes.  

Capt. Shepherd received a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S Naval Academy, and Master’s and Engineer’s degrees in Mechanical and Ocean Engineering from MIT.   He has received NASA’s Steve Thorne Aviation Award, the Spirit of St. Louis Medal, and was designated “Honorary Naval Aviator Number 30” by the Chief of Naval Operations. He has also received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the National Intelligence Medal of Merit, the Gagarin Gold Medal, the Robert H. Goddard Trophy, and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. In 2009, the International Space Station Program that Capt. Shepherd led on the ground and in space, won the Collier Trophy, an award recognizing the Nation’s greatest achievements in aviation and astronautics.

Capt Shepherd is married to the former Beth Stringham of Houston Texas.  They reside in Virginia Beach Va. 

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Originally aired: November 18, 2020