Edgar Mitchell was selected to be an astronaut in 1966 and was seconded from the Navy to NASA. He was designated as backup Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 10, and served as Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 14, landing aboard the Lunar Module “Antares” in the hilly upland Fra Mauro Highlands region. For two days, February 5 and 6, 1971, Mitchell and Alan Shepard deployed and activated scientific equipment and experiments on the lunar surface. They collected almost 100 pounds of lunar samples for return to Earth. Other Apollo 14 achievements include first use of Mobile Equipment Transporter (MET); largest payload placed in lunar orbit; longest distance traversed on foot on the lunar surface; largest payload returned from the lunar surface; longest lunar surface stay time (33 hours); longest lunar surface EVA (9 hours and 23 minutes); first use of shortened lunar orbit rendezvous techniques; first use of color television with new Vidicon tube; and first extensive orbital science period conducted during CSM solo operations. He became the sixth person to walk on the Moon. Apollo 14 was the longest walk performed by astronauts on the lunar surface. In completing his first space flight, Edgar Mitchell logged a total of 216 hours and 42 minutes in space. He was subsequently designated to serve as backup Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 16. In 1972, Mitchell retired from NASA and the U.S. Navy. During the mission, he took photos, including the one with Shepard raising the American flag. In the photo Mitchell’s shadow is cast over the lunar surface near the flag. That photo was listed on Popular Science’s photo gallery of the best astronaut selfies.
Edgar Mitchell was named as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. In 1975, Mitchell moved to Palm Beach County, Florida and lived there until his death. On June 29, 2011, the federal government of the United States filed a lawsuit against Mitchell in the United States district court in Miami, Florida after discovering that he placed a camera used on Apollo 14 for auction at the auction house Bonhams. The litigation requested the camera be returned to NASA. Mitchell’s position was that NASA had given him the camera as a gift upon the completion of the Apollo 14 mission. Bonhams withdrew the camera from auction. In October 2011, attorneys representing the government and Mitchell reached a settlement agreement, and Mitchell agreed to return the camera to NASA, which in turn would donate it for display at the National Air and Space Museum. On September 20, 2012, Congress enacted H.R. 4158, confirming full ownership rights of artifacts to astronauts on Apollo (and Mercury and Gemini) space missions.
Edgar Mitchell’s interests included consciousness and paranormal phenomena. On his way back to Earth during the Apollo 14 flight he had a powerful savikalpa samādhi experience, and also claimed to have conducted private ESP experiments with his friends on Earth. The results of said experiments were published in the Journal of Parapsychology in 1971. He was the founder of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) for the purpose of consciousness research and other “related phenomena”. On the Opie and Anthony radio show, Buzz Aldrin described a psychic communication experiment that Mitchell conducted during the Apollo 14 flight, wherein Mitchell attempted to transmit information to participants on Earth. Edgar Mitchell died under hospice care in West Palm Beach, Florida, on February 4, 2016, at the age of 85.
- September, 17, 1930
- Hereford, Texas
- February, 04, 2016
- West Palm Beach, California