Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell dies at 85

MIAMI -- Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who became the sixth man on the moon when he and Alan Shepard helped NASA recover from Apollo 13's "successful failure" and later devoted his life to exploring the mind, physics and unexplained phenomena such as psychics and aliens, has died in Florida.

See Full Article

He was 85.

Mitchell died Thursday night at a West Palm Beach hospice after a short illness, his daughter, Kimberly Mitchell, said. Mitchell's passing coincides with the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission, which ran from Jan. 31-Feb. 9, 1971.

Mitchell, one of only 12 humans to set foot on the moon, was not a typical strait-laced astronaut: In later years, he said aliens visited Earth and faith healers were legit. He attempted to communicate telepathically with friends at home during his Apollo mission. He had an "epiphany" in space that focused him on studying consciousness, physics and other mysteries.

"What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness," Mitchell wrote in his 1996 autobiography. "It occurred to me that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft itself were manufactured long ago in the furnace of one of the ancient stars that burned in the heavens about me."

His passion for exploration led him to become an astronaut, and he joined NASA in 1966. He helped design and test the lunar modules that first reached the moon in 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Shepard, the first American in space in 1961, picked Mitchell to be on Apollo 13's three-person crew. But they were bumped to the next mission so Shepard would have more time to train -- he had been grounded for years because of an inner ear disorder.

The delay was an unexpected benefit: Apollo 13's astronauts were nearly killed when an oxygen tank exploded as they neared the moon in 1970. They made it home safely, but never set foot on the moon. A year later, Shepard, Mitchell and Stu Roosa were the first crew to try again amid falling support for the moon missions from President Nixon, Congress and the public.

"Had we blown it, had it failed for whatever reason, that would probably have been the end of the Apollo program right there," Mitchell said in 1997. But they didn't let that get to them: "When you're carrying that personal load, you just don't have room to carry a national load as well."

Fortunately, their mission, the third lunar landing and Mitchell's only trip in space, was a success.

Unlike the two moon missions before them that went to smoother areas, Shepard and Mitchell landed in a hilly region while Roosa orbited overhead.

They collected about 95 pounds of samples in more than nine hours walking the lunar surface. They showed for the first time that astronauts could walk long distances on the moon, covering nearly two miles on their second expedition on the surface. That proved the crews of later missions could walk back to their spacecraft if the buggy-like Lunar Rover broke down.

Their mission was best known to the public because Shepard became the first and only golfer on the moon. Mitchell joked when Shepard duffed his first shot: "You got more dirt than ball that time." Less well known was that Mitchell made the only "javelin" throw on the moon when he tossed an unneeded metal rod.

Apollo 14 did have its share of glitches. Shepard and Mitchell almost didn't make it to the surface because of problems in the lunar module.

First, a loose piece of metal in a switch made an abort signal go off as they prepared to travel down to the moon. If the descent engine had been on at the time, the module would have automatically aborted the landing. They traced the problem's cause by tapping on the switch with a flashlight and a pen.

Computer programmers back home wrote instructions to get around the abort problem and Mitchell entered them with just minutes to spare. Shepard later wrote that Mitchell remained "Mr. Unflappable" during the scare.

Once they started for the surface, though, the landing radar wasn't working correctly. Shepard and Mitchell agreed to take the dangerous and rule-breaking step of landing without radar, but didn't have to when the device started working just in time.

They had to give up searching on foot for Cone Crater's rim, one of their mission's top geological sites. They stopped because they spent too much time looking for it and had to stick to tight schedules. When Mission Control told them they should consider giving up, he used colorful language for an astronaut: "Think you're finks!"

But it was the telepathy experiment on the ride home that would give Mitchell more notoriety. Even before he left, he told The Associated Press about his fascination with psychic phenomena and extrasensory perception and that he thought humans weren't the only intelligent life in the universe.

Those interests almost got him removed from the mission, said Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon and backup commander for Apollo 14. Cernan wrote in his autobiography that despite Mitchell's impeccable skills and vast intelligence, flight crew director Deke Slayton and Shepard were bothered with the fascination.

"Ed just wouldn't let it go, and Deke said he was uncomfortable with the possibility that Mitchell's full attention would not be on the mission," Cernan wrote.

Mitchell claimed the experiment was a success. He thought of certain symbols on a list and the friends on Earth tried to determine which ones. They were supposed to attempt the experiment at certain times, but a launch delay caused them to try at different times.

He said the results were wrong about 90 per cent of the time, much more than the half that chance would suggest. He and his friends said that meant that subconsciously they knew something was wrong because of the delay, so they communicated incorrect symbols.

But most press reports dismissed him and some colleagues shunned him.

Edgar Dean Mitchell was born Sept. 17, 1930, in Hereford, Texas, and grew up working on his father's cattle ranch in New Mexico. He joined the Navy and got a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining NASA.

He left NASA in 1972 and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which is dedicated to exploring the mysteries of the human mind and the universe. He also searched for ways to link the spirituality of religion with the hard facts of science.

In later years, he claimed the U.S. government covered up evidence that aliens had landed here. He also tried to prove that the supposed psychic spoon bender Uri Geller and faith healers were legit.

In 2011, he became embroiled in a legal fight with NASA over his plans to auction a 16mm camera he had brought home from the moon mission. The camera had been bolted to the l lunar module and would have been left on the moon if Mitchell hadn't removed it.

Although Mitchell contended it was a gift, NASA sued to stop the auction and eventually Mitchell agreed to donate it to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Study on health impact of mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows to be released

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO - Grassy Narrows First Nation is to release a study today on health impacts in the northern Ontario community linked to eating mercury-contaminated fish. It says the report includes recommendations for government actions to support improving health and well-being in the Indigenous community. Source
  • Europe's tough new data privacy laws will benefit Canadians, too

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Chances are, over the past few days you've been getting emails from the apps and mailing lists you subscribe to, alerting you to their new privacy policies. That's because on Friday the European Union will bring into effect some of the world's strictest online privacy rules — new regulations that some experts say will afford Canadian internet users more protections, as well, if companies opt to extend the privacy features to users worldwide. Source
  • Trump can't legally block Twitter users just because they criticize him, court rules

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users because doing so violates their rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The ruling by U.S. Source
  • China's plan to land on the far side of the moon could be historic, experts say

    Tech & Science CBC News
    China's ambition to soft-land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon later this year faces considerable challenges, but if successful would propel the country's space program to the forefront of one of the most important areas of lunar exploration, experts say. Source
  • Study offers new look at why our brains evolved to be so big

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Why do people have such big brains? Some researchers asked a really powerful brain -- a computer -- and got back a surprising answer. In relation to body size, our brains are huge, about six times larger than one would expect from other mammals. Source
  • Twitter introduces 3 new features and kills off 3 others

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Out with the old, in with the new. Twitter's main account has just introduced three new features (night-time mode, real-time updates and updated compose box) while @TwitterSupport bears bad news for fans of Twitter's tv apps. Source
  • France's Macron takes on Facebook's Zuckerberg in tech push

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron took on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other internet giants Wednesday at a Paris meeting to discuss personal data protection and taxes as France pushes for tougher European regulations. Source
  • Digital Life: Cutting back on a constant smartphone habit

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Why are we checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, then Facebook again when we just wanted to check the weather? Turns out, smartphone addiction is by design. Think of the constant stream of notifications, colour schemes in apps and all the "likes," followers and in-game trophies. Source
  • Archeologists discover Greco-Roman era building in Egypt

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAIRO -- Egyptian archeologists say they have discovered parts of a huge red brick building dating back to the Greco-Roman period north of Cairo. The Antiquities Ministry says Wednesday the building was found in the San El-Hagar archaeological site in Gharbia province. Source
  • Feel awkward unfollowing that Instagrammer? Just click 'mute'

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Instagram has announced that it is rolling out a new ability to secretly 'mute' annoying accounts -- for both posts and stories. Here's how it's done... Instagram is finally letting users block stories and posts from Instagrammers that they may find annoying. Source