James Irwin

James Irwin

Infobox Astronaut
name = James Benson Irwin

type = Astronaut
nationality = American
date_birth = March 17, 1930
date_death = death date and age|1991|8|8|1930|3|17
place_birth = Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
place_death = Glenwood Springs Colorado
occupation = Test Pilot
rank = Colonel, USAF
selection = 1966 NASA Group
time = 12d 07h 12m
mission = Apollo 15

insignia =

James Benson Irwin (March 17, 1930 – August 8, 1991) was an American astronaut. He is of Scottish and Irish descent. He served as Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 15, the fourth human lunar landing; he was the eighth person to walk on the Moon. cite book
last = Reynolds
first = David West
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Apollo: the epic journey to the moon
publisher = TEHABI BOOKS
year = 2002
location =
pages = 166-189
url = http://www.amazon.com/dp/0151009643/
doi =
id = ISBN 0-15-100964-3

Early life

Irwin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Biographical Data: James Irwin
work =
publisher = Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
month = August | year = 1991
url = http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/irwin-jb.html
format = HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2007-02-15
] He received a Bachelor of Science degree in naval science from the United States Naval Academy in 1951 and a Master of Science in aeronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1957.

He received his flight training at Hondo Air Base and Reese Air Force Base, Texas. He graduated from the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School in 1961 and the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School in 1963. Prior to joining NASA, he was Chief of the Advanced Requirements Branch at Headquarters Air Defense Command. During his time in the air force he was received a Air Force Distinguished Service Medal and two Air Force Commendations. He also received a Outstanding Unit Citation while with the 4750th Training Wing.

NASA career

Astronaut selection

James Irwin was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He also served as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10, the first mission to carry the full Apollo stack to the moon, and was the dry run for the first manned moon landing. He then served as backup lunar module pilot for the second moon landing mission, Apollo 12.

Apollo 15

Between July 26 and August 7 1971 – as the Apollo 15 Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) – Irwin logged 295 hours and 11 minutes in space. His Extra-Vehicular Activity(EVA) on the Moon's surface amounted to 18 hours and 30 minutes of the mission time (an additional 33 minutes was used to do a stand-up EVA by opening the LM's docking hatch to survey the surroundings and take photographs). cite web
last = Woods
first = David
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Mountains of the Moon
work = Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal
publisher = NASA
date = 2006-09-14
url = http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a15/a15.html#The_Genesis_Rock
format = HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2007-02-15
] Irwin and David Scott's mission was more science-based than previous missions, which meant that they received intensive geological training to meet the demanding nature of the J-Mission profile. This extra training is credited with allowing them to make one of the most important discoveries of the Apollo era: the Genesis Rock.

Apollo 15 landed in the Moon's Hadley-Apennine region, noted for its mountains and rilles. Since this was a J-Mission, it meant that they would spend more time on the moon than previous missions, to allow for three EVAs. As well, Irwin was the first automobile passenger on the moon, since he was not the driver of the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) carried along for this mission in the Lunar Module (LM) Falcon's Descent Stage. Scott and Irwin's stay on the Moon was just under three days at 66 hours and 54 minutes.

Health problems on Apollo 15

Once the rendezvous procedure was completed between Falcon and the Endeavour CSM, both Irwin and Scott were busy moving items like rock samples into the CM and preparing the Lunar Module for final separation.It was during this intense period of work that the earliest symptoms appeared regarding his heart condition.

Both Scott and Irwin were working with no sleep for 23 hours, during which they had conducted a final moonwalk, performed the ascent from the lunar surface, rendezvoused with Endeavour, and encountered the problems that delayed the Lunar Module jettison manoeuvre. cite web
last = Woods
first = David
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Apollo 15 Flight Summary
work = Apollo Flight Journal
publisher = NASA
date = 2004-05-28
url = http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/ap15fj/a15summary.htm
format = HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2007-02-15
] The astronauts' physiological vital signs were being monitored back on Earth, and the Flight Surgeons noticed some irregularities in Irwin's heart rhythms. Irwin's heart had developed bigeminy.cite book
last = Kraft
first = Chris
authorlink =
coauthors = James L. Schefter
title = Flight: My life in Mission Control
publisher = Penguin Group
month = March | year = 2001
location = New York
pages = 342-343
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-525-94571-7
] Dr. Charles Berry stated to Chris Kraft, deputy director of the Manned Spacecraft Center(MSC) at the time: " It's serious, [i] f he were on Earth. I'd have him in ICU being treated for a heart attack." Endeavour's cabin atmosphere was 100% oxygen (when in space), so it was decided that he was in no serious danger by Dr. Charles Berry. Specifically "In truth,...he's in an ICU. He's getting one hundred percent oxygen, he's being continuously monitored, and best of all, he's in zero "g". Whatever strain his heart is under, well, we can't do better than zero "g"."

During the post-Trans Earth Injection (TEI) phase of the mission there wasn't much more for Irwin to do other than provide help with Al Worden's EVA to retrieve film magazines from the CSM's SIM bay, by donning a pressure suit and monitoring him. He was able to rest and apparently recover during the rest of the mission. cite book
last = Chaikin
first = Andrew
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = A Man on the Moon
publisher = Penguin Books
date = 1994/1998
location = Toronto
pages =
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-14-027201-1
] The flight surgeons continued to monitor his EKG until splashdown, but his heart rhythm was normal. This incident apparently was not discussed during the mission debriefing sessions, and the condition did not appear when he returned to Earth. "A few months later he had a heart attack."

tamp incident

After the return of Apollo 15 to Earth, it was discovered that, without authority, the crew had taken 398 commemorative first day covers to the moon of which a hundred were then sold to a German stamp dealer. The profits of the sale would have been used establish trust funds for the Apollo 15 crew's children. Although their action was not in any way illegal, and despite the fact that NASA had turned a blind eye to similar activities on earlier flights, the administration decided to make an example of Scott and his crew and none of them flew in space again.

Post-NASA career

Beyond his achievements as an astronaut with NASA, Irwin is perhaps most notable for his Christian work. He left NASA and retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel in 1972 and founded High Flight, a Christian ministry. He frequently commented about how his experiences in space had made the presence of God even more real to him than before.

Beginning in 1973, Irwin led several expeditions to Mount Ararat, Turkey in search of the remains of Noah's Ark. His expeditions failed to find any sign of the Ark. In 1982, he was injured during the descent and had to be transported down the mountain on a horse and then to the nearest hospital by Lieutenant Orhan Baser and his commando team. Lieutenant Baser was assigned to protect and lead the team on this expedition.

Irwin suffered a serious heart attack near his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He died on August 8, 1991 as the result of a subsequent heart attack in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He is survived by his wife Mary Ellen and their five children. Irwin is the first of the twelve men who have walked on the moon to die.


*"To Rule the Night: The Discovery Voyage of Astronaut Jim Irwin" (with William A. Emerson, Jr., 1973)
*"More Than Earthlings" (1983)
*"More Than an Ark on Ararat: Spiritual Lessons Learned While Searching for Noah's Ark" (with Monte Unger, 1985)
*"Destination: Moon" (1989)

In the 1998 miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" Irwin was played by Gareth Williams.

In fiction

In the 2002 novel "Ice", James Irwin walks on the Moon a second time, as the LM Pilot of a fictional Apollo 20 mission sent to the Moon with the original objective of recovering the remains of two astronauts who were stranded when their LM ascent engine failed to fire. No such mission was ever necessary. In the 1989 novel by Julian Barnes, "A History of the World in 10½ Chapters", the character Spike Tiggler is also an astronaut who searches for Noah's Ark.

Memorabilia and trivia

A patch cut by Irwin from the backpack abandoned on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission was auctioned at Christie's in 2001 for $310,500 in a consignment of material from Irwin's estate that garnered "a combined $500,000". ["Antiques Roadshow Insider", V.7, No.2, February 2007, p.11]

James Irwin Charter High School in Colorado Springs is named in his honor.

Irwin's grandparents emigrated to the USA from Altmore Parish at Pomeroy in County Tyrone around 1859. [cite book |last=Allen |first=Sam |title=To Ulster's Credit |origyear=1985 |year=1985 |pages=pp. 123 |location=Killinchy, UK ]

External links

* [http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/irwin-jb.html Official NASA biography]


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