James Irwin’s irregular heart rhythms were first noted during his Apollo mission. Image credit: NASA
To date, just 12 people have ever walked on the Moon. James Irwin was one of them, landing on the lunar surface alongside David Scott on 31 July 1971 in order to embark on the three-day Apollo 15 mission. It was the fourth Moon landing and Irwin was number eight to walk on the Moon, but it was the realisation of a long-held dream for the then 41-year-old pilot.
Born on 17 March 1930, Irwin had grown up wanting to go to the Moon. He studied naval science, graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1951 and while his mother had wanted him to become a preacher, his sights were set skywards for a different reason. As such, he became an Air Force officer. This led him to aeronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering at the University of Michigan.
In the late 1950s, he became a test pilot but it very nearly ended his career. In 1961 while teaching a student to fly on a training mission, his plane crashed, causing Irwin severe injuries. As well as suffering compound fractures and amnesia, he was close ...