David Scott was a NASA astronaut who was the seventh person to walk on the Moon and the first person to drive on the Moon. He was born David Randolph Scott on June 6, 1932 on Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. As a child, he was active in the Boy Scouts of America and graduated from The Western High School in Washington, D.C. in June 1949, as an honor student and a record setting swimmer. After his first year of college, he received an invitation to attend West Point where he finished 5th in his class. Because of his high standing in the class, he was able to choose which branch of the military he would serve. Scott chose the Air Force because he wanted to fly jets. He received both an S.M. degree in Aeronautics/Astronautics and the degree of Engineer in Aeronautics/Astronautics from MIT in 1962. He also received an honorary doctorate of Astronautical Science from the University of Michigan in 1971.
Scott was selected by NASA to fly and command a mission of his own, making him the first person to do so. On March 16, 1966, he and Neil Armstrong were launched into space on the Gemini 8 mission. The flight was originally scheduled to last three days; however it ended early due to a faulty thruster. They did, however, perform the first successful docking of two vehicles in space and demonstrated excellent piloting skill in overcoming the thruster problem and bringing the spacecraft to a safe landing. Three years later, Scott worked as command module pilot for Apollo 9, which was the third manned flight in the Apollo series, the second launched by a Saturn V, and the first to complete a complete earth-orbital verification test of a “fully configured Apollo spacecraft.” The flight brought new important information on the operational performance, consistency, and dependability of lunar module momentum and life support systems. After that flight, Scott was designated backup spacecraft commander for Apollo 12.
He made his third space flight as spacecraft commander of Apollo 15 in 1971, alongside Alfred M. Worden and James Irwin. Apollo 15 was the fourth successful manned lunar landing mission and the first to land near rugged terrain. The landing site was near Hadley Rille and Apennine Mountains on the southeast edge of the Mare Imbrium. Upon landing, Scott and Irwin put on their pressure suits, and then Scott performed the first and only stand up EVA on the lunar surface. The lunar module remained on the lunar surface for 66 hours and 54 minutes, and Scott and Irwin logged 18 hours and 35 minutes each in extravehicular excursions onto the lunar surface. Apollo 15 ended by splashing down in the Pacific Ocean and was recovered by the USS Okinawa.
After Apollo 15 returned to Earth, an interesting discovery was made. Scott and his crew had taken 398 commemorative first day covers to the moon, a hundred of which were then sold to a German stamp dealer. The profits were supposed to have been used to establish trust funds for the crew’s children. Even though their actions were not illegal, NASA made an example of them, and none of them flew in space again. Instead, Scott became the Center Director of NASA’s Flight Research Center, a position he held for two years.
Since his time at NASA, Scott has been awarded two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, two Air Force Distinguished Service Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Force Association’s David C. Schilling Trophy and the Robert J. Collier Trophy.
Scott currently lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife Margaret. He is also one of the astronauts featured in the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon.