25 July 2021

The Men who Walked on the Moon

Do you know how many men walked on the moon without reference? If you do, then go to the top of the class. If not, like me, you probably made a ball park guess which was almost but not quite right. There have been, in fact, twelve men (so far) who walked on the moon. But what on earth (literally) do you do afterwards? Let’s take a look at these twelve extraordinary men and find out what became of them on earth-fall.

Neil Armstrong
Apollo 11, July 21 1969
Soon after coming back from the moon Armstrong announced his intention never to fly in space again.  However, up to 1971 he still worked for NASA as a Deputy Associate Administrator.  He then became an academic, working for the University of Cincinnati in its Aerospace Department. After eight years he resigned and went on to become spokesman for a number of companies including Chrysler and General Time Corporation and the Bankers Association of America.

He has also been on the board member of several companies including United Airlines.  Armstrong was appointed to the Rogers Committee in 1986 to investigate the Challenger disaster.  The space shuttle had been destroyed because of a problem with its solid rocket boosters, manufactured by Thiokol: Armstrong joined their board after the investigation. He retired from his final position, Chairman of the Board for EDO (a defense and intelligence product manufacturer) in 2002. Armstrong died on 25 August 2012.

Buzz Aldrin
Apollo 11, July 21 1969
Once his NASA days were over Aldrin went to work at the Edwards Air Force Base as the Commandant but in 1972 he retired from active service in the Air Force.  He stayed on in a managerial role and during that faced his twin demons, clinical depression and alcoholism.  After retiring from NASA he made a foray in to the computer games market with his eponymous Race Into Space game.  He founded a non-profit organization ShareSpace and has even performed on a rap song – Rocket Experience, along with Snoop Dogg and others.

He has appeared himself in the TV show Futurama where he judged a science fair. Hollywood also beckoned and he appeared, again as himself, in 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon.   Never short of an opinion, Aldrin has criticized NASA for ‘reaching for past glory than striving for new triumphs’ and in 2009 stated his belief that the human race was not responsible for global warming. Most recently Aldrin has lent his vocal talents to the Mass Effect 3 blockbuster game where he plays an old man talking to his grandson in the end credits.

Pete Conrad
Apollo 12, November 19-20 1969
Conrad stayed with NASA and went in to space again as the commander of Skylab 2 and was the leader of the first crew on board.  They found a lot of damage and Conrad ‘repaired’ one of the stuck solar panels by pulling it free with sheer brute force which then allowed another to deploy. For this and his erection of a solar shield to protect Skylab he received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Conrad left NASA and the navy in 1973 and worked for the American Television and Communications Company.  He went on to McDonnal Douglas in 1976 but even his solid presence could not dispel the fears over the safety of the DC-10 after a cataclysmic accident in 1979. He went on in the 90s to be a ground-based test pilot for the single stage to orbit vehicle the Delta Clipper. He also went around the world in a record-breaking Learjet flight which lasted just under 50 hours.

His life was sadly cut short in 1999 when his motorcycle ran off the road. The resulting injuries led to his death from internal bleeding, just a few months short of the thirtieth anniversary of his moonwalk.

Alan Bean
Apollo 12, November 19-20 1969
Don’t tell Rowan Atkinson but there has been a Mr Bean in space before – namely Alan Bean who became the fourth man to hit our satellite’s surface during 1969’s Apollo 12 mission.  

He was to return to space as the commander of the second manned mission to Skylab in 1973 – a flight which took in over 24 million miles.  He also got to do a space walk outside of Skylab and on his return to Earth he was involved in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.  One his retirement from the navy in 1975 he stayed with NASA in a civilian role, heading up the Astronaut Candidate Operations and Training Group.

Post NASA Bean is best known for his remarkable artwork to which he has devoted his time since his retirement from NASA in 1981.  He uses real moon dust on his paintings – after realising that the patches from his space suit which he had kept as souvenirs were caked in the stuff.  You can see his wonderful pictures here.

Alan Shepard
Apollo 14, February 5–6, 1971

Shepard had already been the second person (and the first American) in space so it was only a matter of time before he was chosen to set foot on the moon, which he did in 1971 during the Apollo 14 mission as its commander.

While still in NASA he was made a delegate to the 26th United Nations General Assembly, and rose to the rank of rear admiral in the US Navy before retiring in 1974. He went on to become a board member of many corporations and ran his own umbrella company Seven Fourteen Enterprises. He also published a book about his outer space exploits.

He died in 1998 after a two year battle with leukemia, on the twenty ninth anniversary of the first ever moonwalk. His ashes, together with those of his wife Louise who died just weeks after him, were scattered at sea by a Navy helicopter.

Edgar Mitchell
Apollo 14, February 5–6, 1971
Although Apollo 14 was Mitchell’s only spaceflight he stayed with NASA until 1972. Since then he has proven himself to be something of a maverick, something of the Fox Mulder to NASA’s FBI as it were. He is interested in paranormal phenomena and claims that on his way back to Earth he experienced a Brahman experience in which one's consciousness temporarily dissolves.

He had the results of ESP experiments published in the Journal of Parapsychology in 1971 and founded an institute to research psychic events.  He has publicly declared his belief in extraterrestrial life and maintains that many of the UFO sightings that have been recorded over the last seventy years are the real deal.

Mitchell also adheres to a popular conspiracy theory that a cabal of influential men and women have been conducting experiments on aliens recovered from a crash and that since the days of Kennedy this has been kept secret from the government.  He also maintains to this day that he has heard first hand eye witness accounts of alien activity at Roswell, New Mexico. NASA, of course, have distanced themselves from Mr Mitchell!

David Scott
Apollo 15, July 31 - August 2 1971
The seventh person to walk on the moon was David Randolph  Scott, selected to become an astronaut in 1963 and realizing his ambition to walk on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission.  He stayed with the Air Force until 1975 despite having got in to some hot water because of a small discovery.

Although it was not an illegal action as such, Scott had decided to carry almost 400 commemorative postal covers with him to the moon. This was with the full knowledge of the rest of the crew – they were hoping to use the proceeds to start trust funds for their children.  NASA, however, wanted to stamp out (get it) this sort of behavior and the crew were made an example to others. None of them ever flew in space again.

Scott has had a varied career since leaving NASA, mostly in consultancy and writing.  He has worked with the BBC on a number of their TV space projects as well as on the Apollo 13 movie and the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon. 

James Irwin
Apollo 15, July 31 - August 2 1971
Irwin was also involved in the stamp issue but his own peculiar claim to fame as a moonwalker was that he was the first of these men to die.  Ironically the heart problem which was eventually to kill him was first noticed while he was on the Apollo mission. Working almost twenty three hours in a single day, Irwin’s heart readings back at NASA HQ showed fluctuations. Little wonder really: he had been on a moonwalk, ascended from the moon and made the rendezvous with Endeavor and helped overcome the problems that delayed the Lunar Module jettison maneuver.

Yet he made it back to earth and continued in the air force until 1972. He did not go on any further space missions because of those stamps but he had found another calling.  Up to his death, Irwin worked for the High Flight Foundation, (which he founded) and devoted his life to spreading Christianity.

He did, however, lead a number of expeditions to Mount Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark. In 1982, coming back down the mountain, he was injured and had to be brought down on horseback.  In 1991 he suffered a heart attack and died. He is buried at Arlington.

John Watts Young
Apollo 16, April 21- 23, 1972
Young was the ninth person to walk on the moon but his other claim to fame is as the man to have the longest ever career as an astronaut.  Over the space of 42 years with NASA he enjoyed no less than six space flights. He is also the only person to have piloted four separate classes of spacecraft, his last being the Space Shuttle.

While on the moon, Young set a speed record with the Lunar Rover. After the mission Young became Chief of the Space Shuttle Branch of the Astronaut Office in 1973, eight years before the first shuttle took off.

It took off with him on board. He commanded the 1981 flight, STS-1 and then STS-9 which carried the first spacelab module. He was highly critical of NASA's management after the Challenger disaster in 1986 despite still being an employee. Although he officially retired in 2004 he couldn’t quite give it all up. He carried on going to the weekly Monday Morning Meeting for astronauts for several years after that.

Charles Duke
Apollo 16, April 21- 23, 1972
Duke is still the youngest person to have ever walked on the moon – he was 36 when he walked on the surface of our sole satellite.  He also stayed on the surface for 71 hours and 14 minutes which at the time was a record.

Back on earth, In December 1975, Duke retired from NASA to enter private business in San Antonio. He entered the USAF Reserves in 1975 and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1979. He retired in June, 1986.

Since then, Duke has been involved in a wide variety of activities and businesses. He is presently involved in the following ventures.  As well as giving inspirational talks, Duke is active in the Boys Scouts of America movement. He became a Christian after his moon walk and is also now involved in prison ministry.

Eugene Cernan
Apollo 17, December 11-14, 1972
Cernan, along with Schmitt (below) went walkabout on the moon’s surface three times, clocking up 22 hours worth of lunar exploration.  If that was not remarkable enough Cernan also got to pilot the rover on its last drive – and created a lunar land speed record of 11.2 mph (although that is not an official record!).

Although not the last man to set foot on the moon he was the last person to leave it. As both he and Armstrong went to Purdue University in Indiana it means that particular seat of learning educated both the first and last person on the moon.  While on the moon he drew his daughter’s initials in to the dust on the surface, probably making him the coolest dad of all time.

Cernan stayed with NASSA for another four years, retiring in 1976 and went in to private business afterwards. He co-authored a book called The Last Man on the Moon and has featured on a number of space documentaries.  He and Armstrong both testified against President Obama’s cancellation of the Constellation program in 2010.

Harrison Schmitt
Apollo 17, December 11-14, 1972
The twelfth and last man to set foot on the moon, Schmitt is the only one of the dozen not to have been at some point a member of the US Armed Forces. He was the only scientist-astronaut to walk on the lunar surface, receiving a Phd from Harvard in 1964 for his work on the subject of geology.

A year after returning to Earth, Schmitt resigned from NASA and ran for the US Senate, becoming representative for New Mexico (Republican).  He stayed for a single term and once he had left the senate became a consultant not only in geology but business and public policy too.

He is infamous, post NASA, for declaring that global warming was being used a political tool to increase control over American lives. In January 2011 he was given a role in the cabinet of the State of New Mexico but refused a background investigation and so had to decline the appointment.