Edgar D. Mitchell, an astronaut who was spiritually transformed by his journey to the moon in 1971 and who devoted much of the rest of his life to exploring esoteric realms of science, psychic phenomena and the existence of extraterrestrial beings, died Feb. 4 at a hospice in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 85.
A daughter, Kimberly Mitchell, confirmed his death to the Palm Beach Post. The cause was not immediately known.
Mr. Mitchell was the lunar module pilot aboard Apollo 14, which took off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Jan. 31, 1971. Veteran astronaut Alan B. Shepard was the mission commander, and Stuart A. Roosa was pilot of the command module.
Shepard and Mr. Mitchell spent 33 hours on the moon, including more than nine hours outside the lunar module. They conducted scientific experiments and brought back about 100 pounds of moon rocks and other lunar materials. Shepard pulled out a 6-iron and made three golf shots.Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell in 2007. (Henny Ray Abrams/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
During the nine-day spaceflight, Mr. Mitchell surreptitiously carried out experiments in extrasensory perception. Fewer than 10 percent of the experiments succeeded, but he considered the number statistically significant, and when he returned to Earth, he knew that his life was forever changed.
“The experience I had on the flight was akin to a religious experience, ” Mr. Mitchell told People magazine in 1974. “It was euphoric, one of those rare moments in life when you seemed to be able to reach out and touch the universe, when you had an intuitive flash about the real meaning of truth.”
As one of only 12 men to set foot on the moon, Mr. Mitchell realized that he had a special perspective on the world, and he spent the rest of his life trying to understand the full meaning of that experience.
For two years, he didn’t shave the beard that had begun to sprout as he stood on the moon. The stoic Texas-born test pilot and Navy veteran, who had a doctorate from MIT, turned his life upside down as he embarked on a decades-long quest to reconcile the contradictory worlds of science and metaphysics, interstellar exploration and personal growth.
He underwent hypnosis and deep-relaxation techniques to try to recapture the emotions he felt in the Apollo 14 capsule during the three-day return flight from the moon.
“What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness, ” he wrote in a 1996 memoir, “The Way of the Explorer.”