Some of us of a certain age felt a little bit older today after news that Captain Edgar Dean "Ed" Mitchell has died age 85. The US Navy veteran and NASA astronaut was the Lunar Module Pilot on the Apollo 14 mission in 1971 and was the sixth man to walk on the Moon. Speaking to the Palm Beach Post, Mitchell's daughter said he passed away on Thursday at 10:00 pm EST in hospice care at Lake Worth, Florida.
Edgar D. Mitchell was born on September 17 in Hereford, Texas, though he regarded Artesia, New Mexico, as his home town. He had a B.S. in Industrial Management from Carnegie Mellon (1952), a B.S. in Aeronautics from the US Naval Postgraduate School (1961). and a Doctorate in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1964).
In 1953, Mitchell joined the US Navy and served on deployments in the Pacific region and flew A3 aircraft from the aircraft carriers USS Bon Homme Richard and USS Ticonderoga. In 1959, he moved to aircraft development and served as Chief of the Project Management Division of the Navy Field Office for Manned Orbiting Laboratory from 1964 to 1965 before receiving test pilot certification in 1966, when he was seconded to NASA.
In 1971, Mitchell flew as Lunar Module Pilot on the Apollo 14 mission along with Command Module Pilot Stuart A Roosa and Mission Commander Alan B Shepard Jr. Despite a faulty Abort signal and malfunctioning radar, Mitchell and Shepard managed to land the LEM Antares closer to target than any of the other six Apollo landings.
During their two EVAs at Fra Mauro, Mitchell and Shepard achieved a series of records and firsts, including the first color television transmissions from the lunar surface, the largest rock sample payload (94 lb, 42.6 kg) returned from the Moon, and the longest distance traversed on foot on the Moon.
In 1973, Mitchell retired from the Navy and NASA to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which was dedicated to studying the nature of consciousness, and in 1984 he co-founded the Association of Space Explorers, which was an international organization for all who "share experience of space travel." He also courted controversy with his views on paranormal activity and his beliefs regarding UFOs.
"On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my condolences to the family and friends of NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement. "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 Mitchell was twice divorced with three children, three stepchildren and nine grandchildren.
NASA provided the silent video below as a tribute to Mitchell's contributions to space exploration.