Shepherd was born on July 26, 1949, to parents George R. Shepherd and Barbara Shepherd in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but considers Babylon, New York, his hometown. He is married to Beth Stringham of Houston, Texas. He enjoys sailing, swimming, and working in his garage.
Shepherd was a Cub Scout. He graduated from Arcadia High School, in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1967, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy in 1971. After successful completion of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S) in 1972, he joined the elite community of Naval Special Warfare and qualified as a Navy SEAL. He served with the Navy's Underwater Demolition Team ELEVEN, SEAL Teams ONE and TWO, and Special Boat Unit TWENTY.
Then, in 1978, he obtained an Engineer's degree in Ocean Engineering, and a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Shepherd was selected for the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1984, as the first-ever-military non-aviator for astronaut training, following his unsuccessful application for NASA Astronaut Group 9 in 1980. In 1986, his Navy SEAL training proved unexpectedly useful to NASA as he participated in salvage operations of the Space Shuttle Challenger after its destruction. Shepherd then served as a Mission Specialist on three Space Shuttle flights: mission STS-27 in 1988, mission STS-41 in 1990, which deployed the Ulysses probe, and mission STS-52 in 1992.
From March 1993 to January 1996, he was assigned to the International Space Station program, serving as Program Manager and Deputy Program Manager. In November 1995 he was selected to command the first crew of the International Space Station (ISS). The mission was supposed to launch in 1997, but a long series of Russian political, financial and rocket problems conspired to delay the flight. Although sixteen nations would participate in the ISS program, Russia, along with the United States would bear the majority of the station's costs.
STS-27: Atlantis (December 2–6, 1988) Shepherd served with his crewmates on a mission which lasted 105 hours and carried Department of Defense payloads.
STS-41: Discovery (October 6–10, 1990) during 66 orbits of the Earth, the crew aboard the Orbiter successfully deployed the Ulysses, starting it on a four-year journey (via Jupiter) to investigate the polar regions of the Sun.
STS-52: Columbia (October 22 to November 1, 1992) was the 10-day mission deployed the Laser Geodynamic Satellite (LAGEOS), and conducted U.S. microgravity payload experiments.
In 1993, Shepherd was assigned to program management for the International Space Station (ISS). From October 31, 2000 to March 21, 2001, he and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergey Krikalev served as Expedition 1, the first crew stationed at the ISS.
Shepherd has logged over 159 days in space.
Shepherd was next assigned to the staff of Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, to assist with the development of new capabilities and programs for the SEAL and Special Boat programs. He retired from the U.S. Navy in January 2002. Capt Shepherd also served as U.S. Special Operations Command's first Science Advisor from 2008–2011.American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
U.S. Naval Institute
Congressional Space Medal of Honor
NASA's "Steve Thorne" Aviation Award
2004 inductee into the International Space Hall of Fame
2009 inductee into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Honorary Naval Aviator
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale V. M. Komarov Diploma
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal
Spirit of St Louis Medal
Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy
Medal "For Merit in Space Exploration"