Apollo 14’s Edgar Mitchell passes away at age 85
Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell passed away on Feb. 4, 2016, peacefully at a hospice located in Lake Worth, Florida. He was the sixth man to walk on the Moon, as the lunar module pilot of Apollo 14. His time in space totaled nine days and one minute – 9 hours and 23 minutes of which were spent in two moonwalks on the Fra Mauro highlands.
After graduating from Artesia High in 1948, Mitchell went on to earn a bachelor’s in industrial management from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1952. He joined the Navy the following year. While serving on active duty, he earned another bachelor’s in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1961 and a doctorate in aeronautics & astronautics from MIT in 1964.
Mitchell became a naval aviator in May 1953. He achieved the rank of captain and later became a test pilot. He accumulated 5,000 hours of flight time, including 2,000 hours in jet aircraft.
Mitchell was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1966 and designated as backup Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 10, before his flight on Apollo 14. During this mission, he landed the Antares lunar module in the Fra Mauro highlands and deployed scientific equipment and experiments on the lunar surface with Alan Shepard. They collected almost 100 pounds of lunar samples for return to Earth.
In his own words, his return to Earth triggered a powerful experience summed up as thus:
“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch’.”
He is survived by his two ex-wives and their three children and three step-children, and his nine grandchildren.
With Mitchell’s passing, there are no surviving members of the Apollo 14 crew. The mission was commanded by Alan B. Shepard Jr. (who passed in July of 1998) and Stuart A. Roosa (who died in Dec. 1994) and explored the Fra Mauro Highlands. In a sad irony, Mitchell passed away the day prior to the 45th anniversary of his and Shepard’s touchdown on the lunar surface on Feb. 5 of 1971.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden remembered Mitchell’s contributions in an agency-issued statement:
“On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my condolences to the family and friends of NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell. As a member of the Apollo 14 crew, Edgar is one of only 12 men to walk on the Moon and he helped to change how we view our place in the universe.
“Edgar spoke poetically about seeing our home planet from the Moon saying: ‘Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth … home.’
“He believed in exploration, having been drawn to NASA by President Kennedy’s call to send humans to the Moon. He is one of the pioneers in space exploration on whose shoulders we now stand.”
Eric Shear is a recent graduate from York University, honors bachelor in space science. Before that, Shear studied mechanical engineering at Tacoma Community College. During this time, Shear helped develop the HYDROS water-electrolysis propulsion system at Tethers Unlimited and led a microgravity experiment on the Weightless Wonder parabolic aircraft. Shear has worked for an extended period of time to both enable and promote space flight awareness. Shear agreed to contribute to SpaceFlight Insider’s efforts so that he could provide extra insight into interplanetary missions, both past and present.