Recollections from the sixth man to ever walk on the Moon, for young adult readers.On February 5, 1971, Edgar Mitchell jumped off the last rungs of a ladder connecting him to NASA’s Antares spacecraft and landed with two feet on the Moon. Following the disastrous Apollo 13 mission, Mitchell was one of three astronauts to successfully complete the Apollo 14 journey to the Moon, though it wasn’t without its own alarming moments.
In Earthrise, Edgar recalls his spectacular trip to the Moon and the life experiences that got him there, including his early days spent in Roswell, New Mexico, amid nuclear testing and the rumored UFO crash; his first solo airplane flight as a young teen; his time as a navy combat pilot; and becoming a NASA astronaut. With fascinating detail, Edgar describes what it was like to launch into space and land on the Moon, illuminating everything from the practical—eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom in space—to the mystical, life-changing experience of gazing at Earth from afar.
With illuminating sidebars, transcripts of NASA recordings from the historic Apollo 14 mission, and extensive resources including lists of space-related websites, museums, organizations, films, and books, Earthrise is an invaluable addition to any space, astronomy, or science buff’s bookshelf.
About the Author
Edgar Mitchell was a pilot in the historic 1971 Apollo 14 mission and the sixth man to ever walk on the Moon. His books include Paradigm Shift, The Space Less Traveled, and The Way of the Explorer. Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and three NASA Group Achievement Awards, Mitchell was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 and inducted to the Space Hall of Fame in 1979, the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Leonardo da Vinci Society for the Study of Thinking in 2011. He was the founder of the renowned Institute of Noetic Sciences and the cofounder of the Association of Space Explorers. He died in 2016. Ellen Mahoney is the author of Nellie Bly and Investigative Journalism for Kids. She has worked for Walt Disney Imagineering as a staff writer, contributed many educational pieces for Space Center Houston, and produced radio features for the BBC Science in Action show. She is an affiliate faculty instructor in the department of journalism and technical communication at Metro State University of Denver. She lives in Boulder, Colorado. Dr. Brian Cox is a professor of particle physics and Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Manchester. He presents various space and science programs on BBC radio and television, including Wonders of the Universe.
Read an Excerpt
My Adventures as an Apollo 14 Astronaut
By Edgar Mitchell, Ellen Mahoney
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2014 Edgar Mitchell and Ellen Mahoney
All rights reserved.
From Big skies to Buck Rogers
"Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future."
— H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895)
I was born in a small stucco home on September 17, 1930, in the quiet rural town of Hereford, Texas. Hereford is located in the northern area of the state referred to as the Texas Panhandle. I was the first son of three children, and my grandmother, Josephine Arnold, helped my mother, Ollidean Mitchell, bring me into this world. My father's name was Joseph Thomas, but everyone called him JT.
Some people say everything is "big" in Texas, and as far as landmass, that's true. But as a child, what looked incredibly big to me was the sky, which loomed large above the Texas prairies and plains.
The night sky was a spectacular sight because there were so many glistening stars. Sometimes on warm summer evenings my dad and I would sit on the porch or head out to the nearby farm fields to stargaze. As we walked among the lightning bugs and listened to the hum of the crickets, we'd stare up at the sky and watch for shooting stars. If I were lucky enough and saw one streak across the sky, I'd holler out, "Look, Dad! I see one!"
It wasn't easy to find constellations in the star -speckled Texas sky, but if I tried I could usually find the Big Dipper and the Canis Major formations. And when the Moon was full and looked like an enormous dinner plate suspended in space, I would always look for the Man in the Moon.
Little did I know that one day I would be a man on the Moon.
Sparky, Oscar, and a Herd of Herefords
My family moved from Texas to New Mexico in 1935. I was only five years old, and I now had a younger sister named Sandra. The four of us, my mom, dad, Sandra, and I, packed all our bags and belongings into our black 1929 Buick coupe. Sandra and I sat in the car's rumble seat as we headed due west about 170 miles to the small town of Roswell, New Mexico, located in the Pecos Valley.
In Roswell we lived on a small 100-acre farm that had elm and cottonwood trees, roses, a windmill, and a picket fence to keep cows from wandering into our yard. The Berrendo Creek ran through our property and provided us with delightful swimming holes during the rainy season. Our home was a simple brown clapboard farmhouse with a living room, a kitchen that had an icebox and a wood-burning stove, two bedrooms, a sleeping porch, and a bathroom. My mom always grew a vibrant vegetable garden in one corner of our yard. I loved our little home.
The Pecos Valley was an exciting world of rolling hills, prairies, pastures, rivers, streams, caverns, and canyons just fit for adventure. There were always plenty of things to do and places to explore in this rugged but beautiful Southwest terrain.
Over the years I grew up surrounded by many different types of farm animals and pets. I had a Shetland pony named Sparky, and my all-time favorite pet was a small black-and-white terrier I named Oscar. Oscar was a great little dog and would follow me wherever I went — around the house, out to the fields, out to the barn, the corral, or even into town. Oscar's favorite trick was racing across the yard, jumping up onto our propane tank, and then taking a flying leap for as far as he could go. It never ceased to amaze me.
When I was about 10, Dad gave me a steer to feed and raise, and I felt grown up because he trusted me with so much responsibility. At the time I was a member of the local 4-H Club, which was a club for farm kids in the area. The four Hs stood for head, heart, hands, and health. Every year, the other 4-H members and I would take our groomed horses, calves, cows, steers, bulls, lambs, pigs, sheep, and goats to the Roswell County Fair where we'd auction off and sell our livestock to the highest bidders. Although it was always a good time and there were rides like Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds, the county fair helped introduce me to the cattle business, which was my dad's line of work.
As a boy, my world was one of hot dusty days, wide -open spaces, farmland, fences, barns, horses, and cattle as far as you could see. I grew up in cattle country.
My dad was a third-generation cattle rancher, and along with my grandfather and my two uncles, our family eventually owned a fairly large ranch where about 200 Hereford cows and calves, and a few young bulls, roamed and grazed.
But cattle ranching didn't start out easy for the Mitchell family.
My grandfather lost everything he owned during the Great Depression, which started in 1929 and lasted about 12 years in this country. Grandpa lost his home, his farm, all his cattle, and all his money. It was an incredibly tough economic time for nearly everyone in the United States; jobs were scarce, poverty was rampant, and severe drought and dust storms made farming impossible at times.
But unlike some people, Grandpa didn't give up. He was a clever, hardworking man and started his career all over again working on the Santa Fe Railroad in Texas as a laborer. He worked on the railroad with my dad and my dad's two brothers, Bill and George. Grandpa carefully saved all their earnings, and when he scraped together nine dollars he was able to buy one decent, healthy-looking heifer. It was a small step, but a nine-dollar step in the right direction.
Grandpa then turned around and traded the cow for a little more money so he could buy a few more heifers. By starting small and buying and selling cows, he slowly and methodically built up his cattle business all over again.
Grandpa had a great sense of humor and was spry at an older age. He eventually moved into the business of selling bulls, and his business buddies nicknamed him "Bull" Mitchell. Grandpa would trade his registered bulls to ranchers in return for cows and calves, and then my dad would help feed and raise the cows and calves before taking them off to market to sell.
Typical Farm Days
As a farm boy I was always busy helping my parents with whatever chores needed to be done. I remember many a hot, sweaty day milking cows, fixing tractors, or mowing, baling, and raking the hay. And although we had farmhands, I'd also help with big jobs like grinding up our tough, five foot tall Hegira grain and hauling it off to our feedlots.
Most of the time, wherever I was, I looked like a typical cowboy. I wore a wide-brimmed Stetson hat, long-sleeved denim shirt to protect my face and arms from the scorching sun, and khaki trousers. While riding our horses, I often wore chaps to protect my legs from saddle burn as well as the thick brush on our ranch. And I usually had on cowboy boots, which made it easy to move my feet in and out of the stirrups.
My younger brother, Jay, was born seven years after me. When Jay was older, he and I would often do our chores together. During the winter months the chores let up a bit, and my homework always came before my farm work. My parents insisted I work hard in school, and this was okay with me because I enjoyed learning new things.
Wild West Roundups
Land seemed to be ever plentiful in the Pecos Valley, and we eventually bought a 4,000-acre ranch near the small town of Hagerman, New Mexico, which was about 20 miles from Roswell.
In addition to our many heads of cattle, we always had a lot of horses. We had big, muscular Belgian horses to pull our feed wagons, and leaner horses like mustangs, quarter horses, and Appaloosas for roping and herding the cattle. The wide-open, grassy plains of our ranches afforded me a lot of land where I could take off and ride my horses as fast as I wanted to go.
Cattle roundups were a vibrant and challenging part of working on the ranch. By the time we were in Hagerman, I'd been riding full-grown horses for many years, and I was very skilled at being in the saddle and racing across the fields to rope the cattle or chase a stray. I loved the speed, the intensity of the work, and being good at moving the herd to where it needed to go. I would move cattle from one pasture to another, to a holding pen for vaccines, a chute for branding, or to a special dipping vat where the cattle would swim through medicinal treatments.
Dad would always let me know when it was time to herd. I'd gallop out to the field and take my place with the other cowboys alongside the cattle. Once we took off, a lot of dust would fly as we used our horses, our ropes, and our voices to get the cattle moving. The cowboys would whistle loudly, yell and hoot, "Hey! Hey! C'mon girl! Yup! Yup!" And when the herd started to take off, it felt like a powerful wave of energy as hundreds of hooves pounded across the plains.
Naturally, it wasn't all fun and games. I remember difficult times like being thrown from my horse, going for hours without much water in the blazing hot sun, and coming across a rattlesnake or coyote on my path.
As our cattle business prospered, my dad and uncles also decided to go into the business of selling large farm machinery to the ranchers in the area. Dad eventually opened a farm machinery dealership in Roswell, and then a second one in the small town of Artesia, located about 40 miles from Roswell. Sometimes during summers or on weekends, I would help out at one of the dealerships and work in the machine shop. I learned how to repair large pieces of equipment such as tractors, trailers, threshers, mowers, hay rakes, and balers by carefully taking them apart and putting them back together.
Working on these large pieces of machinery and learning about their engines gave me an important confidence I would later put to use as a pilot and an astronaut.
Family Time and the Great Outdoors
We had a tight-knit family, and when we weren't busy working we had many happy times together.
Music was always played in our home and was a big part of my life. Mom loved playing the piano, and when I was about seven years old she encouraged me to take violin lessons. Since I was left-handed, my parents had to have my violin reconfigured (from right to left) so I could play it. I wound up playing the violin for many years in the Roswell and Artesia youth orchestras. Later on in junior high and high school, I also took up the viola, piano, sousaphone, and trombone.
It was always great when the entire family piled into our Ford truck to go camping somewhere in New Mexico, Colorado, or Texas. We would usually set up a few tents next to a river or a stream to catch rainbow and cutthroat trout or smallmouth bass. At the end of the day we'd make a big fire and roast the fish we'd caught for dinner. It smelled so delicious and tasted heavenly. Mom would always bring along her signature biscuits and blackberry jam for dessert.
At night I liked to sleep directly under the stars in a sleeping bag. This was a very special time for me. I'd crawl into my sleeping bag and take out a flashlight and my comic books so I could read about my favorite science fiction superhero, Buck Rogers. In the comic series, Buck was a young man who had fallen asleep from radioactive gases in the 20th century. When he woke up 500 years later, Buck and his buddies, Wilma, Buddy, Alura, and Dr. Huer, often found themselves fighting evil invaders from Mars throughout their many futuristic, space-age adventures.
As I drifted off to sleep, images of ray guns, rebel robots, jet packs, radiophones, satellites, rockets, flying saucers, spider-ships, and the Land of the Golden People flooded my mind.
A SWASHBUCKLING SPACE HERO
In 1929, superhero Buck Rogers hit the spotlight in the highly popular newspaper comic strip Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
Created by author Philip Francis Nowlan, the fictional Buck Rogers character was depicted as a former US Air Service support pilot stationed in France during World War I. After returning to the United States from Europe, Buck became trapped in a Pennsylvania coal mine where he fell asleep from bizarre radioactive gases. When the young man awakened, it was nearly 500 years later. Buck was immediately thrust into a whole new world of ray guns and evil space people about to take over Earth. Along with his newfound friend, Wilma Deering, Buck ventured to futuristic cities where citizens traveled around in flying saucers and jet packs, ate synthetic food, and used space-age gadgets as everyday tools.
The Buck Rogers in the 25th Century comic strip was later featured in radio, television, and motion picture shows, and is credited with bringing the concept of space exploration into popular culture. Tarzan, Popeye, and Tintin were three other comic strip superstars who also debuted in 1929.CHAPTER 2
Barnstormers, Flying Machines, and UFOs
"The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who, in their grueling travels across trackless lands in prehistoric times, looked enviously on the birds soaring through space, at full speed, above all obstacles, on the infinite highway of the air."
— Wilbur Wright
I was only four years old when I had my first ride on an airplane. Dad and I were walking through a cotton field he sharecropped with my great aunt in Texas, when we spotted a plane in the sky one afternoon. The plane was a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" biplane that had two sets of wings built one on top of the other. Because it was so unusual to see aircraft at this time, we couldn't take our eyes off the plane.
But suddenly, to our amazement and alarm, we watched as the plane began to take a serious nosedive. It even looked as if it might crash.
Somehow, the pilot straightened out the plane and managed to land it on a makeshift runway among our rows of white fluffy cotton plants. Dad grabbed my hand and we ran toward the plane to see if the pilot was okay. The young man looked a little shaken but was grinning from ear to ear. He told us he was a barnstormer and had run out of gas, and he apologized for having to make an unfortunate but necessary pit stop on our farm.
Barnstormer was the term for daredevil stunt pilots who performed all sorts of tricks and maneuvers with their planes. Barnstormers were a rare breed of entertainers in America, and many of them had been combat pilots during World War I. These pilots came up with creative ways to earn cash by performing aerial stunts at local flying fields and circuses, or giving people plane rides for a few bucks here and a few bucks there.
Barnstormers seemed to be a fearless bunch of aviators who could do nearly any feat with their planes. They could fly a plane upside down, do a big loop-the-loop in the air, turn a barrel roll in the sky, or even walk on the wing of a plane. It was risky, high-stakes entertainment that was sometimes deadly.
To lend our cotton field barnstormer a hand, Dad drove into town and bought some gas for the pilot so he could refuel. As a way to thank us, the man offered us an exciting ride around the field. The three of us climbed into the two-seat plane, and as I sat on Dad's lap I could feel his strong arms wrap around me, holding me tightly.
As we roared down the cotton field, my stomach swirled and I felt the rush of excitement as the plane lifted up, up into the sky. I felt a little nervous until I looked out the window and saw my world from a whole new perspective. I could see our cotton fields that now looked like big squares of white snow. I could see the clay-colored earth dotted with scrub brush, the tops of trees, and a few tiny-looking horses and cows. It was fantastic.
The 1920s and 1930s were often referred to as the Golden Age of Aviation, and the wild and woolly barnstormers helped American civilians learn to accept and even come to love aviation. But for me, my first ride in a barnstormer's plane planted an important seed in my mind — flying was incredibly fun.
WWII in my Kitchen
I was nine years old when World War II began in 1939. We didn't have a television to show us what was happening during the war, but there were plenty of articles and photographs in newspapers, magazines, and radio stories to paint a vivid picture in my mind.
My dad and uncles were of draft age and could have been required to fight. But because they were farmers, cattle ranchers, and food producers, they were not subject to the draft. Basically they were told to "stay home and produce food for our country and not go to war."
Although Roswell was basically a small farming town, strangely enough, it was also a key military hub for World War II. Two years after the war started, Walker Air Force Base opened in Roswell as a military flying school. I remember looking up at the skies over our ranch and seeing warplanes flying in formation or in training patterns. It was mind-boggling. One minute I'd be riding a horse; the next minute I'd be watching a bomber fly by.
Excerpted from Earthrise by Edgar Mitchell, Ellen Mahoney. Copyright © 2014 Edgar Mitchell and Ellen Mahoney. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Dr. Brian Cox v
Introduction: Trouble on the Far Side 1
1 From Big Skies to Buck Rogers 9
2 Barnstormers, Flying Machines, and UFOs 19
3 Spreading My Wings 31
4 NASA Here We Come 41
5 Getting There 51
6 A Super Long Shot 71
7 The Rocky Road Down 91
8 A Marvelous Day for a Moonwalk 101
9 Trek to Cone Crater 119
10 The Extraordinary Ride Home 131
11 Expanding Horizons 145
12 Exploring New Worlds 155
Key Life Events 163
Resources to Explore 167
Websites About Space 167
Museums and Organizations 168
Films and Videos 171
Books for Further Reading 172