As promised in my story in today’s Extra section, here is a more complete transcript of my Sept. 11 interview with Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell. He’s a truly fascinating guy. —MikeA
Edgar Mitchell studies a map while walking on the Moon, February 6, 1971. Photo courtesy of NASA.
What was it like being on the moon?
What more can an explorer want? That’s what we were. … To go where humans haven’t been, look around, gather data, come back and tell the people. That’s what explorers do.
Were those suits bulky even in the moon’s gravity?
They were. But they were necessary. We had practiced in those suits. We were familiar with how difficult things were and fortunately on the moon’s gravitation which is one sixth what it is on Earth, it was a bit easier … but nevertheless it was still cumbersome.
I’m sure it’s well documented, but I’d like to hear what you saw while you were there, from a first person point of view.
There weren’t any great surprises because the moon is a dead planet, essentially, with no atmosphere. … I guess the great surprise that many of us had was the fact that the back side looks quite different from the front side because of the fact that the same side of the moon faces the Earth at all times, and the lava flows from the early period came out on the front side and filled the craters and the ancients thought those were oceans. They called them maria. What they are is really craters filled with black material … pummeled up to talcum powder fineness. On the back side it’s more like sand. Only once we got there and got pictures did we realize that was the case.
Did you guys do anything like set up a flag or play golf?
Every mission had a flag on a pole, with a little metal rod at the top to make it look like it’s flying all the time. All crews set those up.
My partner, Alan Shepard, hit a golf ball, and I threw a javelin after his golf ball. Outthrew him by about four inches.
Did it go further than it would have here?
No, because the pressure suit is so cumbersome. It didn’t go but about 50 feet or so. Neither did his golf ball, because it wasn’t really a golf club that he was using, it was a head of a golf club put on a piece of equipment we had, and he was swinging it one-handed because he couldn’t really swing it two-handed.
Were you able to see the Earth from where you were?
In order to really see it, you had to hang onto … the leg of the spacecraft and lean way back because it was directly overhead … and when you standing on the surface in the pressure suit you couldn’t look directly overhead. Read more »