(COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE) — Former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who walked on the moon in 1971, died Feb. 4 at the age of 85 in West Palm Beach, Fla., just one day before the 45th anniversary of his historic Apollo 14 lunar landing. Mitchell’s mission was the Apollo program’s fourth and was the first after Apollo 13’s failed attempt to land because of a pre-landing oxygen tank explosion.
Mitchell was accompanied to the moon’s surface by U.S. Navy Capt. Alan Shepard. The two collected 94 pounds of moon rock for scientific research back on Earth. During their 33 hours of work, they completed the longest moonwalk in history.
Mitchell was born Sept. 17, 1930, in Hereford, Texas, to a ranching family that moved to the town of Artesia, N.M. He graduated from Artesia High School in 1948 and received a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1952. Shortly thereafter, he joined the U.S. Navy and completed basic training at the San Diego Recruit Depot. While on active duty, he completed a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1961 and a doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964.
In 1954, Mitchell completed naval flight training at Hutchinson, Kan., and was designated a “naval aviator” just before his assignment to a land-based patrol mission on Okinawa. During the course of his Navy career, he rose to the rank of captain and logged 5,000 hours of flight time, including 2,000 hours in jet aircraft, much of which was carrier-based.
From 1965 to 1966, he attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School to prepare for astronaut duties and to acquire certification as a test pilot. Mitchell graduated first in his class and then served as an instructor in advanced mathematics and navigation theory for astronaut candidates. In 1966, he was chosen by NASA to be an astronaut. He retired from NASA in 1972. Among his many outstanding honors and awards were the Presidential Medal of Honor, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.