Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, sixth man to walk on moon, dies at 86

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Feb 5 (Reuters) - Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon as module pilot on the record-setting Apollo 14 mission in 1971, has died at the age of 86, the U.S. space agency said on Friday.

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Mitchell died in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Thursday, on the eve of the 45th anniversary of the lunar landing, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said. The Palm Beach Post reported that he died at a hospice center after a brief illness.

On his only space flight, Mitchell joined Apollo 14 commander Alan Shephard, Jr., the first American in space, in the lunar module Antares when it landed on Feb. 5, 1971.

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Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, sixth man to walk on moon, dies at 86
Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14 lunar module pilot stands by the deployed U.S. flag on the lunar surface during the early moments of the mission's first spacewalk. He was photographed by astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., mission commander. While astronauts Shepard and Mitchell descended in the Lunar Module "Antares" to explore the Fra Mauro region of the moon, astronaut Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Module "Kitty Hawk" in lunar orbit. (Photo via NASA)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 31: Astronauts Edgar Mitchell, Al Shepard and Stuart Roosa were the crew for the third successful lunar landing mission. Apollo 14 was launched on 31 January 1971 to furnish additional knowledge of the Moon and its history. Shepard and Mitchell became the fifth and sixth men to walk on the lunar surface, and Shepard the first to hit a golf ball on the Moon. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 07: Mitchell is seen here against a lunar backdrop walking along a line of geophones on the Moon's surface. Apollo 14, the third successful manned Moon landing mission carrying astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa and Mitchell, was launched on 31 January 1971. Shepard and Mitchell became the fifth and sixth men to walk on the lunar surface, and Shepard the first to hit a golf ball on the Moon. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 31: Astronaut Edgar Mitchell works with both Hasselblad cameras aboard a KC-135 aircraft. The stowage locations on the MET (Modular Equipment Transporter) for the cameras is at the bottom of the image. Mitchell, Alan Shepard and Stuart Roosa were the crew for the third successful lunar landing mission. Apollo 14 was launched on 31 January 1971 to furnish additional knowledge of the Moon and its history. Shepard and Mitchell became the fifth and sixth men to walk on the lunar surface, and Shepard the first to hit a golf ball on the Moon. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
A fish-eye lens view shows Apollo 14 mission US astronauts Alan B. Shepard Jr. (foreground) and Edgar D. Mitchell working in a LM (lunar module) simulator at Kennedy Space Center, Florida on July 15, 1970. The Apollo XIV mission, the third mission to land on the moon, was launched on January 31, 1971 and landed on the moon on February 5, 1971. AFP PHOTO NASA (Photo credit should read /AFP/Getty Images)
Apollo 14 mission US astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell US uses a trolley for the transportation of equipment on the lunar surface on February 5, 1971. The nine-day Apollo XIV mission, the third mission to land on the moon, was launched on January 31, 1971 and landed on the moon on February 5, 1971. AFP PHOTO RIA NOVOSTI (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES : Edgar Mitchell (left) and Alan Shepard (right) suited up for altitude tests. Mitchell, Shepard and Stuart Roosa were the crew for the third successful lunar landing mission. Apollo 14 was launched on 31 January 1971 to furnish additional knowledge of the Moon and its history. Shepard and Mitchell became the fifth and sixth men to walk on the lunar surface, and Shepard the first to hit a golf ball on the Moon. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 31: Astronauts Edgar Mitchell, Alan Shepard and Stuart Roosa were the crew for the third successful lunar landing mission. Apollo 14 was launched from Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, its mission to furnish additional knowledge of the Moon and its history. Shepard and Mitchell became the fifth and sixth men to walk on the lunar surface. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - OCTOBER 17: American astronaut Alan Shepard, Apollo 14 commander, playing golf with a makeshift club, on moon surface during Apollo 14 mission, february 6, 1971. Behind him are the astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot, and Lunar Module, photo NASA (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)
Prime Crew Of The Apollo 14, The Prime Crew Of The Apollo 14 Lunar Landing Mission On Dec, 3, 1970, L To R: Command Module Pilot, Stuart A, Roosa; Commander, Alan B, Shepard, Jr.; And Lunar Module Pilot, Edgar D, Mitchell, The Apollo 14 Mission Emblem Is
A picture taken on February 6, 1971 shows Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14 lunar module pilot, moving across the lunar surface while looking over a traverse map during extravehicular activity (EVA). AFP PHOTO NASA (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Apollo 14 Launch, The Apollo 14 Launch, The Fourth Manned Lunar Landing Mission, Astronauts Alan B, Shepard, Jr, Stuart A, Roosa, And Edgar D, Mitchell, Lifted Off At 4:03 P.M, Est Jan, 31, 1971, From Kennedy Space Center. (Photo By Encyclopaedia Britanni
Edgar Mitchell of Apollo 14 during UACC Astronaut Autograph Show at Meadowlands Crowne Plaza - August 13, 2005 at Meadowlands Crowne Plaza in Secaucus, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Derek Storm/FilmMagic)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - JULY 16: The capsule that safely delivered Apollo 14 astronauts Edgar Mitchell, Alan Shepard and Stuart Roosa back to earth is on display in the Apollo Treasures Gallery at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Saturn V Center July 16, 2009 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The opening of the gallery commemorated the 40th anniversary of the the launchy of Apollo 11, the first manned space mission to the moon. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - JULY 16: (L-R) Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut, Walt Cunningham, Apollo 7, Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14, Al Worden, Apollo 15, and Charlie Duke, Apollo 16, address the crowd gathered underneath a Saturn V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex July 16, 2009 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The gallery opening celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. (Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)
From left, Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11, Walt Cunningham, Apollo 7, Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14, Al Worden, Apollo 15, Charlie Duke, Apollo 16, Jerry Carr, Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) for Apollo 8 and 12, Vance Brand, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project; Apollo 8 and 13 stand together at the Apollo 40th anniversary celebration Thursday, July 16, 2009, at the Apollo/Saturn Center at Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center in Florida. (Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Shown in Dallas on Monday, March 24, 2008 is a scoop used by Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell to pick up moon dust on the Apollo 14 mission. It is one of the items included in the Heritage Auction Galleries, Air and Space Auction, Tuesday, at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)
Apollo astronauts, seated from left, Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11; Richard Gordon, Apollo 12; Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14; Charlie Duke, Apollo 16; and Walter Cunningham, Apollo 7, and, standing from left, Thomas Stafford, Apollo 10; Russell Schweickart, Apollo 9; Gene Cernan, Apollo 17; William Anders, Apollo 8; and John Young, Apollo 10 and Apollo 16 gather for a group photograph during the Apollo/Saturn V Center grand opening gala Wednesday night Jan. 8, 1997 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Former NASA Astronaut Edgar Mitchell arrives for the premiere of the "In the Shadow of the Moon," Wednesday, September 5, 2007, at the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in New York. The movie brings together for the first, and possibly the last, time surviving crew members from every single Apollo mission that flew to the moon, and allows them to tell their story in their own words. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)
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Their mission was to deploy scientific instruments and perform a communications test, as well as photograph the lunar surface and any deep space phenomena, the space agency said.

Mitchell and Shephard set mission records for time of the longest distance traversed on the lunar surface, the largest payload returned from the moon, and the longest lunar stay time, at 33 hours. They were also the first to transmit color TV from the moon.

Mitchell helped collect 94 pounds (42.6 kg) of lunar rock and soil samples. He was the sixth of 12 men to walk on the Moon.

In his book "The Way of the Explorer," Mitchell wrote, "There was a sense that our presence as space travelers, and the existence of the universe itself, was not accidental but that there was an intelligent process at work."

Mitchell retired from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Navy and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in 1973, organized to sponsor research in the nature of consciousness.

In 1984, he co-founded the Association of Space Explorers, an international organization devoted to providing an understanding of the human condition resulting from space exploration.

Mitchell was born in Hereford, Texas, and held a doctorate in aeronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was selected as an astronaut in 1966.

In a 1997 interview for the agency's oral history project, Mitchell said he was drawn to space flight by President John Kennedy's call to send astronauts to the moon.

"I've been devoted to that, to exploration, education, and discovery since my earliest years, and that's what kept me going," he said.

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