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," died in Florida on Thursday at age 85. He was one of 12 humans to ever step foot on the moon.
Mitchell was the most vocal about his experience of seeing Earth from above. His outer space occurrence left a profound spiritual impact on him, so much so, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in the Sonoma Valley, an institute that conducts research into meditation, consciousness and human potential.
After returning from the Apollo 14 trip, Mitchell said, "That's a powerful experience, to see Earth rise over the surface [of the Moon]. And I suddenly realized that the molecules in my body, and the molecules in the spacecraft and my partners had been prototyped, maybe even manufactured, in some ancient generation of stars. But instead of being an intellectual experience, it was a personal feeling... And that was accompanied by a sense of joy and ecstasy, which caused me to say 'What is this?' It was only after I came back that I did the research and found that the term in ancient Sanskrit was Samadhi."
He then devoted his life to exploring the mind, physics and unexplained phenomena such as psychics and aliens.
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, reports Fox News.
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.
Mitchell 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.
He was not perceived as the typical type of astronaut. "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. He said aliens visited Earth, and attempted to communicate telepathically with friends at home during his Apollo mission.
The Apollo 14 mission was best known to the public because Shepard became the first and only golfer on the moon. Mitchell joked when Shepard took 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.
He also spent a good portion of his later life searching for ways to link the spirituality of religion with the hard facts of science.