MIAMI — 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" and later devoted his life to exploring the mind, physics and unexplained phenomena such as psychics and aliens, has died in Florida. He was 85.
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 from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9, 1971.
Mitchell, one of only 12 humans to set foot on the moon, was not a typical strait-laced astronaut: In later years, he said aliens visited Earth and faith healers were legit. He attempted to communicate telepathically with friends at home during his Apollo mission. He had an "epiphany" in space that focused him on studying consciousness, physics and other mysteries.
"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. "It occurred to me that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft itself were manufactured long ago in the furnace of one of the ancient stars that burned in the heavens about me."
In an emailed statement, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called Mitchell "one of the pioneers in space exploration on whose shoulders we now stand."
Mitchell's passion for exploration led him to become an astronaut, and he 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.
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.