General Dynamics NASSCO launched the
U.S. Navy's newest resupply ship, USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3). The ship is
named in honor of the first American astronaut in space. It is also the
first U.S. Navy ship ever to be named after an astronaut.
The ceremony took place in San Diego at the NASSCO shipyard. John H.
Sununu, a three-term governor of New Hampshire and former White House Chief
of Staff, was the principal speaker for the ceremony. Mrs. Laura Shepard
Churchley, the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard and the ship's sponsor,
christened the ship by breaking the traditional bottle of champagne against
it during the morning ceremony. Two former Apollo astronauts -- William
Anders and Eugene Cernan -- were also in attendance.
A native of Derry, N.H., Alan Shepard (1923-1998) joined the Navy in
1944. He was selected as one of the original seven Mercury astronauts in
1959. He made two space flights, including the third successful lunar
landing. He retired from NASA and the Navy as a rear admiral in 1974. He
spent his post- NASA career in business and for several years ran the
Mercury Seven Foundation, a non-profit organization now called the
Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which provides college science
USNS Alan Shepard is the third ship of an expected class of 11 dry
cargo- ammunition ships for the Navy. NASSCO has contracts to build eight
T-AKE ships. The first ship of the class, USNS Lewis and Clark, was
delivered to the Navy on June 20. The T-AKE class incorporates
international marine technologies and commercial ship-design features,
including an integrated electric-drive propulsion system, to minimize
operating costs over its projected 40-year service life.
Construction of USNS Alan Shepard began
in September of 2005. The ship
is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy's Military Sealift Command in the
summer of 2007. When it joins the fleet, the ship's primary mission will be
to deliver food, ammunition, fuel and other provisions to combat ship
sea. The ship has modular cargo holding and handling systems onboard and
can carry more than 6,600 tons of dry cargo and nearly 23,500 barrels of