James Irwin was an American astronaut, an engineer, and was the eighth person to walk on the moon. He was born James Benson Irwin on March 17, 1930 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He lived a fairly normal childhood and graduated from East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1947. He went on to attend the United States Naval Academy and received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1951. Following the Naval Academy, he attended the University of Michigan and earned a Master of Science in aeronautical engineering in 1957. He then married his wife Mary Ellen Monroe and went on to flight training at Reese Air Force Base. Irwin completed his training and graduated from the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School in 1961. During his time in the Air Force, he was Chief of the Advanced Requirements Branch at Headquarters Air Defense Command and received an Air Force Distinguished Service Medal and two Air Force Commendations. Unfortunately, one of his students crashed their plane during a routine training mission. Although they both survived, Irwin suffered from compound fractures, amnesia, and almost lost his leg. He quickly recovered and was soon back in the air.
In April of 1966, James Irwin was selected by NASA as an astronaut. He began his career with NASA as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10. He then served as a backup lunar module pilot for the Apollo 12. Finally, in 1971, Irwin was chosen to fly Apollo 15 along with David Scott and Alfred Worden. Between July 26 and August 7, 1971, Irwin logged 295 hours and 11 minutes in space. On July 30, 1971, Irwin piloted Apollo 15’s lunar module, Falcon, and landed it near the moon’s Hadley-Apennine region. Also, Irwin and Scott deployed the first four-wheeled lunar roving vehicle, which took them farther from their ship than any other lunar astronauts had gone before. It was successful in helping them discover a rock over four billion years old. Irwin’s Extra-Vehicular Activity on the Moon’s surface totaled 18 hours and 30 minutes of the mission time. During his time on the moon, Irwin experienced a religious reawakening, saying he felt the presence and power of God in a new way. However, also while on the moon, Irwin’s hear rhythms became irregular. He was being monitored from Earth, and doctors compared his condition to a heart attack. However, doctors concluded that his condition was not serious because he was surrounded by one hundred percent oxygen and his heart was not under pressure due to lack of gravity. Following his return to Earth, Irwin retired from NASA.
Along with his work as an astronaut, Irwin is noted for his religious work. In 1972 he founded the High Flight Foundation, an interdenominational religious organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Starting in 1973, Irwin led multiple expeditions to Turkey in search of the remains of Noah’s Ark. However, he was unsuccessful. His decline of health began when he suffered a serious heart attack near his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He had a subsequent heart attack, which resulted in his death on August 8, 1991. He is survived by his wife Mary Ellen and their five children.