Jim Irwin was assigned as my back up for Apollo 12. He knew his job extremely well. I knew that if anything happened to me at the last minute, Jim would do an excellent job on our mission and fit right in with Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon.
It was easy to like Jim, he had a personality that suggested you could have a lot of confidence in him. He wasn’t an individual that tried to convince you that what he was doing was right or what you were doing was wrong. It was more like he wanted to work with you and find the best way to do something together.
He flew a wonderful flight on Apollo 15 in July, 1971. He and Dave Scott were on the moon for three days, in what I felt was the greatest mission of Apollo up to that point. Not only because theirs was the first extended lunar scientific expedition, but because of their skill. Dave Scott and Jim Irwin both worked extremely hard and displayed some heart irregularities. It was only after they got back that they discovered the extent of NASA’s concern for them and worry that this situation may have caused some permanent damage.
After all the post-flight activities were complete, Jim left NASA and founded High Flight, an interdenominational evangelical organization devoted to spreading his word, his witnessing, his experience to other people. Jim described being on the moon as a deeply spiritual experience.
Less than two years later, Jim experienced the first of several serious heart attacks. He felt that his physical efforts on the moon, combined with the way the human body eliminates excessive potassium and other minerals in zero gravity, had damaged his heart. He died of a heart attack in 1991 at the age of sixty-one.
We used to see each other at astronaut reunions or accidentally in airports from time to time, and when we parted company, he would put his arm around me and say, “Well I hope to see you again soon, brother.” It was a surprise the first time as that isn’t the way one astronaut talks to another and I didn’t know what to say. After this happened a few times, I wanted to reply because I felt very close to him but I just couldn’t make myself say those words. Since I left the space program and became an artist, I think differently about myself and my life. I miss Jim a lot and I understand how I miss him and respect him as the brother I never had.
15" x 12"
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Giclée on canvas
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