Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy birthday, Jim Irwin

Happy birthday to Jim Irwin, one of the moonwalkers who I regrettably will never be able to meet.

Irwin's only mission was as the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 15, which landed near Hadley Rille in July 1971. Irwin and Dave Scott were the first mission to use the lunar rover and to take three moonwalks during their stay. The two astronauts exerted themselves so greatly in their final day on the Moon that they were both showing signs of irregular heartbeats after they rendezvoused with the Command Module. [Dave Scott told me at Spacefest that Mission Control was monitoring their hearts, but never actually told the astronauts that they were seeing the irregular heartbeats.] Irwin later suffered two heart attacks, the second of which proved fatal on August 8, 1991.

The photo above is from the pre-launch breakfast for the Apollo 15 crew and their backups. It shows Irwin and Vance Brand, who was the backup Command Module Pilot, obviously having an enjoyable time together.

Also shown is a photo of Irwin on the Moon. For autograph requests, he had copies of this photo printed with the pre-inscribed notation, "His love from the Moon." After leaving NASA in 1972, Irwin founded High Flight, a Christian ministry. Beginning in 1973, he led several expeditions to Mt. Ararat, Turkey, in search of the wreckage of Noah's Ark.

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