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My Brother, Jim Irwin
Jim Irwin was assigned as my backup on Apollo 12. He knew his job extremely well. I knew that, if anything happened to me at the last minute, Jim Irwin would do an excellent job on our mission and fit right in with Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon.
It was easy to like him. He had a personality that suggested you could have a lot of confidence in him. He wasn't an individual who tried to convince you that what he was doing was right or what you were doing was wrong. It was more like he wanted to work with you, and find the best way to do something together.
He flew a wonderful flight on Apollo 15 in July 1971. He and Dave Scott were there 3 days and had what I felt was the greatest mission of Apollo up to that point. Not only because theirs was the first extended lunar scientific expedition, but because of their skill. While they were on the Moon, Dave Scott and Jim Irwin both worked extremely hard and displayed some heart irregularities. It was only after they got back that they discovered the extent of NASA's concern for them and worry that this situation may have caused permanent damage.
After all the post-flight activities were complete, Jim left NASA and founded High Flight, an interdenominational evangelical organization devoted to spreading his word, his witnessing, his experience to other people. Jim described being on the Moon as a deeply spiritual experience. Less than two years later, Jim experienced the first of several serious heart attacks. He felt that his physical efforts on the Moon, combined with the way the human body eliminates excessive potassium and other minerals in zero gravity, had damaged his heart. He died of a heart attack in 1991 at the age of sixty-one.
We used to see each other at astronaut reunions or accidentally in airports from time to time; and when we parted company, he would put his arm around me and say, "Well, I hope I see you again, brother." It was a surprise the first time as that isn't the way one astronaut talks to another and I didn't know what to say. After this happened a few times, I wanted to reply because I felt very close to him; but I just couldn't make myself say those words. Since I left the space program and became an artist, I think differently about myself and my life. I miss Jim a lot and I understand how I miss him and respect him as the brother I never had.
- Alan Bean
My Brother, Jim Irwin
This Piece has been Signed by Astronaut/Artist Alan Bean