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Alan Shepard's daughter to repeat astronaut's history-making flight

Laura Churchley Shepard, Alan Shepard's eldest daughter, will join the next Blue Origin flight to space in December.

EVERGREEN, Colo. — Every guest at Laura Shepard Churchley's home asks to use the bathroom. 

“It’s my blue bathroom," Churchley said. “There’s usually a wait line.”

Whether or not one has to go, everyone wants to glimpse where few have gone before. 

"They can come in here and find out about what I grew up with," Churchley said, glancing up at the blue walls covered in framed photographs of space, presidents and one famous astronaut.

“This picture here is of Daddy after he planted the American flag on the moon," Churchley said, pointing to the photo of the Apollo 14 astronaut standing on the lunar surface. 

The man Churchley calls "Dad" was known by the world as Alan Shepard, the first American in space and the first to swing a six-iron through moon dust.

"The golf ball shot!" Churchley laughed. "I mean, who would have thought that?”

Churchley remembered the shock of seeing her dad swing a golf club on the moon as vividly as an afternoon more than six decades ago. Her dad came home from work early and told the family to take a seat in the living room.

"He had an announcement to make," Churchley said. "He said that he wasn’t going to be flying airplanes for the Navy anymore. He was going to be an astronaut for NASA.”

"Astronaut" was a foreign word to Churchley and much of America at the time, but by May 5, 1961, everyone knew the word and Alan Shepard's name.

Churchley was off at boarding school at the time in St. Louis. She recalled sitting on a piano bench inside her headmaster's home, her eyes glued to a black and white TV as her dad rocketed off to space.

"I got really close to the screen and I whispered, ‘Daddy, please don’t mess up,’” she said.

Shepard's 15-and-a-half minute flight was a first for an American and a success.

Decades later, Churchley holds onto her dad's leather flight jacket and suit he wore flying jets. She also has a replica of the infamous six iron. 

Now, she's continuing her dad's mission by repeating it.

"I am," Churchley smiled. "Looking forward to it."

A couple of months ago, Churchley said she got a call from the Blue Origin team, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos. They asked her to join a Dec. 9 mission onboard the New Shepard, a spacecraft named in her dad's honor.

“It’s kind of appropriate to have a real Shepard fly on the New Shepard,” Churchley laughed.

Churchley said she will head to Van Horn, Texas soon to train for a few days with the rest of the six-person crew. She will be one of two honorary guests on the flight alongside Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan. 

Four other customers paid for seats including space industry executive Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess and his son, Cameron Bess. 

“It's such a long mission," Churchley joked. It’s ten minutes. I think we’re just going to be sitting in our chairs looking out the windows and I think we will have three to four minutes of weightlessness, which should be a riot."

Churchley said she imagines her dad, who died in 1998, would be pleased to know her daughter was following in his flight path.

“Daddy probably would have by now gotten to know Jeff Bezos really well!" she said.

When a rocket propels her to space next month, Churchley's dad will be on her mind. They will become the first father and daughter to fly to space.

"It’ll just be a whole sensation that you can’t have here," she said.

Where few have gone before, a second Shepard will soon be.

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