I have been lucky enough to meet three Apollo astronauts and one of those was Edgar Mitchell (pictured above, right), who passed away this week in Florida at age 85. Forty-five years ago–February 5, 1971, he landed on the Moon. I met him at Planet Comicon in 2004 and quickly learned he was not an ordinary convention guest by any definition. Sure, all astronauts seem to walk and talk like daredevils, and he was only the sixth of twelve men to walk on the Moon’s surface. But Dr. Mitchell also came away from his Moonwalk with a universal view of life different than any other astronaut before or since, and left NASA to spend the rest of his life exploring the strange and the paranormal. For Mitchell, it was not a question of aliens having visited Earth, the question was “where did they come from?”
Ed Mitchell was born near Roswell, New Mexico. A member of Boy Scouts and DeMolay, he completed flight training in Hutchinson, Kansas, and went on to fly Douglas A3 Skywarriors in Okinawa, serving aboard both the USS Bon Homme Richard and the USS Ticonderoga. He earned a degree in industrial management before joining the U.S. Navy, and after taking his basic training in San Diego, he earned an aeronautical engineering degree and then a doctorate of science in aeronautics and astronautics.
He was selected to be an astronaut in 1966, and was the backup Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 10, and then the actual Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 14. A month before I was born, in February 1971, he spent two days with Alan Shepard, the first American in space, sharing the longest time humans ever have walked on the surface of the moon. It’s the journey well-known for Shepard hitting a golf ball across the lunar surface. On his way back to Earth, Dr. Mitchell had an epiphany of sorts. He sensed a greater, universal consciousness and a connection. He retired the next year and spent his life exploring the consciousness and paranormal phenomena. He frequently spoke of his beliefs in extra-sensory perception, of a government cover-up of alien life, that an alien craft did crash at Roswell, and that the Cold War was in part prevented by extra-terrestrials–our experiments in atomic weapons drew alien visitors to Earth.
On his experience of being on the Moon, Mitchell said:
You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. 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”.
In the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, Mitchell was played by actor Gary Cole.
Here’s some great coverage of Apollo 14:
If you want to read more about Dr. Mitchell’s theories, I recommend his book The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut’s Journey Through the Material and Mystical Worlds available at Amazon.com here, and he also recounted his Apollo 14 experiences in his book Earthrise: My Adventures as an Apollo 14 Astronaut, available here. His earlier work, Psychic Exploration: A Challenge for Science, available here, delves into his early theories.