Edgar “Ed” Mitchell (1930-present) was a NASA astronaut and engineer, who walked on the moon as part of Apollo 14 in 1971. Like other early American astronauts, he was recruited from research and test piloting duties in the armed forces. He also went on to be decorated by the Presidential Medal of Freedom and to campaign for increased international cooperation through the United Nations.
– Early Life and Military Service –
Mitchell was born in Texas in 1930, and attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology, graduating in 1952 with an industrial management degree. Shortly after graduating, he chose to enlist in the U.S. Navy, with a special interest in naval aviation. Although he did not join early enough to spend time fighting in Korea (as did some other, earlier astronauts), Mitchell did fly from the USS Bonhomme Richard and the USS Ticonderoga.
After his tours aboard carriers, Mitchell returned to the U.S. as a research pilot and pilot instructor. In his time off, he earned a masters degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a doctorate from MIT. In 1966, NASA recruited him out of his naval aviation duties to join the astronaut corps for the later missions of the Apollo project.
– Apollo 14 –
Mitchell first spent time only on the ground, serving on the backup crew for Apollo 10. He got his chance to go into space, however, in 1971, with the launch of Apollo 14 – only the third successful mission to the moon, after the nearly-tragic explosion aboard its immediate predecessor in space, Apollo 13.
In January 1971, Apollo 14 blasted off on a nine-day mission to the Moon. Mitchell was one of the two men who made the descent to the lunar surface at the Fra Mauro highlands. Along with commander Alan Shepard, he made two moonwalks during his day and a half on the surface, carrying out experiments and collecting moon rock samples.
Many of the early astronauts were able to make multiple space flights because of the extremely small size of the astronaut corps relative to the growing size of the space program. By the time Mitchell was recruited, however, most of the Apollo spots had already been filled, and it was many years yet before the next regular series of space flights would be made aboard the Space Shuttle. Mitchell only made it into space once, on Apollo 14.
– Later Life and Controversy –
Mitchell retired from NASA in 1972, a year after his flight to the Moon, and went on to be awarded a variety of honourary doctorates for his achievements. He has appeared in several documentaries, and serves with two advocacy organizations, the Institute for Cooperation in Space and the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
In addition, however, Mitchell, after his retirement, attracted some controversy for his views on the paranormal and on possible extraterrestrial activity on Earth. (Mercury and Gemini astronaut Gordon Cooper made similar claims.) Shortly after leaving NASA, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences to carry out research into human consciousness.
According to various claims advanced by Mitchell over the years, large numbers of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) of alien origin have visited the Earth, but that a systematic misinformation campaign by multiple national governments has suppressed evidence of these visits. Mitchell claims that a secret government organization has been operating more or less independently of the elected government since the years of the Kennedy administration, and that extraterrestrial affairs were handled from within the Pentagon, rather than from the organization in which he worked, NASA.