The world has lost one of its special treasures: retired Navy captain and former NASA astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, LM pilot for Apollo 14 and one of the 12 men who walked on the Moon, died on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 at the age of 85.
His passing brings the number of humans alive who have stood on the surface of another world down to 7 and, as of Feb. 4, none of them from Apollo 14.
Born September 17, 1930 in Hereford, TX, and raised in Artesia, NM, Mitchell resided in Lake Worth, Palm Beach County, FL since 1975.
A former Navy pilot, as a NASA astronaut Ed Mitchell became the sixth person to walk on the Moon after he steered the Apollo 14 Lunar Module to a successful landing in Fra Mauro on the morning of Feb. 5, 1971. He and mission commander Alan Shepard, Jr. spent just over a day and a half on the Moon, during which time they performed two EVAs totaling over 9 hours (and threw a makeshift javelin and drove a golf ball, respectively.)
Fellow Apollo 14 astronaut (and first American in space) Al Shepard died in 1998 at the age of 74; CM pilot Stu Roosa passed away in 1994 at 60. Apollo 14 is now the first lunar mission prime crew (besides Apollo 1, whose crew was killed in a fire on the pad) to be deceased.
In his post-NASA life Mitchell was an outspoken supporter of metaphysical phenomena, citing his experience during his trip back from the Moon as a consciousness-expanding event.
“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.’”
— Edgar D. Mitchell
Mitchell also conducted personal experiments on ESP during the translunar coast and later founded the “Noetic Science” Institute based on his research. He was also involved in some controversies later in life, from insinuations of UFO cover-ups by the government to a court case in Florida regarding a “misappropriated” lunar camera he’d put up for auction. (Mitchell eventually returned the item to NASA.)
Mitchell’s death, in addition to the personal loss for his family, should serve to remind us all that despite how far we have come in the past several decades we as a species still have quite a long way to go yet in returning humans to the Moon — or the surface of any planet besides Earth for that matter. All of the surviving Apollo astronauts are now in their 80s and, if we aren’t careful, we may find ourselves back at a point where all of our off-world explorers are referred to in the past tense.
(I can’t help but be reminded of this.)
For Capt. Mitchell, as they say in the space sector: godspeed sir, and thank you for your service.