As I mentioned the other day, this grainy old photo has been in my personal collection since I was a very young child. I hauled it out recently after something I saw on television made me think of it, and I decided it was high time I actually figured out who he was.
As you can see, there’s no identifying information in the photo, and the only thing I could recall about it was that this was supposedly an astronaut who had walked on the moon, and that my father had probably taken the picture.
Also, according to my boyfriend, he looks a tiny little bit like the very popular singer Josh Groban, (who likely hasn’t walked on the moon, but could probably afford to purchase it by now if he wanted to).
Go for it, Josh. You’ve earned it.
But I digress.
The detail I thought I remembered was that the person in question was the second man to walk on the moon. But this was quickly ruled out, and the search went on.
Thanks to the everlasting wonderfulness that is Wikipedia, however, it didn’t take me too long to narrow it down, and I finally decided that this is most likely James B. Irwin, the 8th of a total of twelve moonwalkers (if you don’t include Michael Jackson), and sadly the first of that group to pass away in 1991, at the relatively tender age of 61.
Jim Irwin spent nearly three days on the moon as part of the Apollo 15 mission, and was the Lunar Module pilot during the landing. After his return, according to Wikipedia, he found himself drawn to an even higher calling than space could offer:
“Beyond his achievements as an astronaut with NASA, Irwin is known for his Christian work. He left NASA and retired from the Air Force with the rank of Colonel in 1972 and founded the High Flight Foundation, spending his last 20 years as a “Goodwill Ambassador for the Prince of Peace,” stating that “Jesus walking on the earth is more important than man walking on the moon”. He frequently spoke about how his experiences in space had made the presence of God even more real to him than before.
Beginning in 1973, Irwin led several expeditions to Mount Ararat, Turkey in search of the remains of Noah’s Ark. In 1982, he was injured during the descent and had to be transported down the mountain on a horse and then to the nearest hospital by Lieutenant Orhan Baser and his commando team. Lieutenant Baser was assigned to protect and lead the team on this expedition.”
Wow, never a dull moment with this guy, am I right? And all this with a heart problem.
So it must have been in Mr. Irwin’s capacity as Goodwill Ambassador that I encountered him as a little girl.
Just out of curiosity, I got a three-month subscription on NewspaperArchive.com (which is AWESOME, by the way), and quickly found several articles documenting a special event Jim attended in 1976 in my California hometown. He apparently made a presentation, and there was an exhibit of moon rocks and other memorabilia as well. My father remembers that people were allowed to touch the rocks, so I guess I might have done so myself.
I have only the vaguest memory of having attended this event (so vague that it might well not be genuine), but my father does remember it, and is fairly sure my brother and I were both there.
It would be the sort of thing you might take your kids to, after all.
And now all that remains is this old photo, forlorn as footprints in the dust of the moon.
But having had it for upwards of thirty years now, I’m happy to be able to put a name to the face, in any case. And to have such a worthy subject for our little experiments!
Speaking of which, thanks to everyone who played this time, and special kudos to my friend Élan’s husband, who not only picked up on the national and patriotic aspects of Mr. Irwin’s work, but actually guessed his first NAME! This is most impressive, as names are very specific, and are often the most difficult details to get correct.
I also found it interesting that Élan herself commented that Jim “was making big strides and others may have taken over,” which is not only true, but her phrasing reminds me of Neil Armstrong’s famous “one giant leap for mankind” remark as he originally stepped out onto the moon.
Congratulations – that’s some mighty fine intuiting!
Check back soon, because there’s plenty more in store for the psychic space cadets among us.
You know who you are!