Dateline NBC April 19, 1996
Transcript of Edgar Mitchel Interview

MOONSTRUCK ANNOUNCER: From our studios in Los Angeles, here again is Maria Shriver.

MARIA SHRIVER: Their names are legendary. Shepard, Glenn, Armstrong, Aldrin: Men who led America into space an to the moon. And after seeing the universe in ways mankind had only dreamt of, they came back changed from the experience. But their journey transformed some of them in ways you might not expect, Tonight, the story of a man who walked on the moon and returned with some ideas that could be called out of this world. Here's Dennis Murphy.

Mr. ADAM MITCHELL: (Watching moon with father) How big is the moon?

DENNIS MURPHY reporting: (Voiceover) A father and son, a silver moon floating over a Florida beach.

(Edgar and Adam Mitchell sitting on beach watching moon)
Mr. EDGAR MITCHELL: (Watching moon with son) It's about a fourth the size of the earth...

MURPHY: But when Adam Mitchell learns about craters. his astronomy teacher isn't just his dad. Edgar Mitchell is one of only a dozen men to ever walk about the lunar landscape.

(Edgar and Adam on beach; lunar equipment and man on moon)
MURPHY: And that's the pad you went to the moon from?

Mr. E. MITCHELL: This is the one we're standing on. That structure's different, but the pad we're standing on is it.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Does it seem like a long time ago?

(Film footage of Apollo 14 rocket on launchpad)
Mr. E. MITCHELL: Yes and no. There are moments when it seems like yesterday and other moments when it's forever.

MURPHY:(Voiceover) Mitchell's moment came in 1971 when Apollo 14 thundered into the history books, but since then he's been on an even more profound journey to a world where he says the paranormal is normal and extraterrestrials are fact, not fiction.

(Apollo 14 launching; moon and cloudy sky)
Mr. E. MITCHELL: I'm convinced there's life throughout the universe. It's just a question of how developed. Are they a few thousand years ahead of us? It doesn't take much.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Edgar Mitchell has always marched to his own definitively different drum. He's the son of a New Mexico cattle rancher, but he gave up punching cows for punching supersonic holes in the sky as a Navy test pilot. He went on to become an MIT physics scholar and ultimately one of NASA's best and brightest.

(Murphy and Mitchell walking near launchpad; old photo of Edgar on pony; plane taking off from aircraft carrier; photo of younger- Edgar Mitchell; photo of Mitchell in spacesuit)

MURPHY: Was it intimidating to show up at NASA on the first day of school, and here's the original seven, and here's Deke Slayton...

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Mm-hmm.

MURPHY: ...the awesome astronaut program, and you're the new kid in school?

MR. E. MITCHELL: Well. sure. But I would say for most of' us having been through the selection process, we were a little brash. You know. the-the Mercury astronauts called themselves the original seven. Our group called ourselves the original 19.

President JOHN F. KENNEDY: (speaking in press conference) I believe that this nation should commit itself' to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him...

Mr. E. MITCHELL. To me. the purpose of going to the moon was to discover more about ourselves, to discover more about humanity, to be the bear that goes over the mountain to see what lie can see.

MURPHY:(Voiceover) And in 1970, Ed Mitchell thought he would get to that mountaintop. He was called up with Stew Roosa and Commander Allan Shepard for a mission to the moon on Apollo 13. (Mitchell and Shepard in spacesuits)

MURPHY: How come you didn't go on that one'!

Mr. E. MITCHELL- Headquarters said, 'Allan. you need some more training time. Let's not rush this.' So we negotiated a with--with Jim Lovell's crew.

(Excerpt from "Apollo 13 " shown)
MURPHY: (voiceover) As the movie "Apollo 13" showed so vividly, the mission became much more than a trip to the moon.

(Excerpt from "Apollo 13 ")
MURPHY: (voiceover) Of course, as it turned out, you missed a very bad ride.

(Excerpt from "Apollo 13 ")
Mr. E. MITCHELL: That's the way it turned out, and as Jim Lovell said in the movie, 'These blessings come in great disguises."

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Mitchell was part of that triumph of human ingenuity, the rescue team that brought the crippled capsule home and saved the Apollo 13 crew from what looked like certain death--a hero in Houston, but not in Hollywood. He was written out of the movie.

(Excerpt from "Apollo 13 ")
Mr. ED HARRIS: (From "Apollo 13 ") I believe this is going to be our finest hour.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Mitchell's finest hour would come a year later when he got a ticket to ride. After the Apollo 13 cliffhanger, this was the mission that had to work. Pressure...

(Excerpt from "Apollo 13 " footage from preparations for Apollo 14 mission)
Unidentified Announcer: (Voiceover) On January 31st, 1971, the crew of Apollo 14 would leave earth on their mission to the moon.

(Apollo 14 on launchpad; moon)
MURPHY: (Voiceover) And they made it to the moon in style.

(Lift-off of Apollo 14)
Mr. E. MITCHELL: (From footage of moon landing) We're on the surface.

Mr. ALAN SHEPARD: (Shepard and Mitchell walking on moon) We've made a good landing, and it's been a long way, but we're here.

Mr. E. MITCHELL: (Holding American flag on moon) How's this? Look OK?

Mr. ALAN SHEPARD: (Standing on moon) Oh yeah. That's the good side.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Shepard and Mitchell spent 33 and a half hours on the dry lunar sea of Tomorrow. It was an almost glitch-free mission, exactly what the doctor had ordered for the space program. Shepard fired a memorable six-iron shot. and they were gone, headed home with 95 pounds of moonrock. And according, to space documentarian and co-writer of Apollo 13, Al Reinert. they came back with a secret.

(Footage of Mitchell and Shepard on moon,- liftoff from the moon; Al Reinert)
Mr. AL REINERT ("Apollo 13" Screenwriter): He had a couple of people, or at least one or two people back on earth that he was trying to contact telepathically.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Mitchell was conducting some extracurricular experiments on his own time. While the others were asleep in the capsule, Mitchell tried to transmit his thoughts from deep in outer space to friends back on earth. He had a table of random numbers matched up with these symbols At a set time, he would choose a sequence and concentrate. Tens of thousands of miles away, his friends tried to read his thoughts and jot down the same numbers and symbols. Later Mitchell thought the results were dramatic, but not as dramatic as the fallout. The press found out about it, and the headlines caught everyone by surprise, particularly Apollo 14's commander.

(Astronauts in Apollo 14,- numbers and symbols; earth as seen from space;
newspaper headlines)

MURPHY: Allan Shepard's going over the newspapers..

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Mm-hmm.

MURPHY: ... and he say's. 'Here are some guys saying, that you're playing with ESP on the way to the moon.'


MURPHY, 'What a bunch of bologna.'

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Yeah, he was--he was kind of tickled about that, and thought it was-here the press is being creative. And again I had to say, 'Well, boss, I did it.'

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Edgar Mitchell, branded forever as the ESP astronaut, came back a changed man. He found his entire belief system thrown up in the air, like a game of pick-up-sticks.

(Earth as seen from space; space capsule with parachute landing in water;
astronauts exiting ship)

MITCHELL: Looking at the moon, looking at the sun, looking at beyond the earth to these billions and billions of brilliant stars and galaxies was simply the feeling of connectedness, the feeling that the molecules of my body in this spacecraft were manufactured in those stars. We're connected.

MURPHY. (Voiceover) This man who had mastered a world of rules, regulations and strict science had experienced nothing less than a spiritual transformation, an epiphany that happened to several of the number two guys, the rookies. Apollo 12's Alan Bean became a painter of haunting lunar seas. Apollo 15's Jim Irwin became an evangelical Christian missionary and set off to find Noahs Ark, 16's Charlie Duke a minister.

(Moon; surface of moon and spacecraft; Bean, Irwin; Duke)
MURPHY. It's interesting. There's something about that second seat on the lander.

Mr. REINERT: The commanders were the guys who were in charge. They were very responsible.

Unidentified Astronaut (On Moon): Oh boy, it's beautiful up here.

Mr. REINERT: The rookies had the chance to kind of just, you know, , 'Wow, we're on the moon.' I think there's a spiritual element to the whole journey if you're open to it. Again, you're talking about very different people. Some of them, you could have sent them to Dallas for two weeks for all the impact it made on their soul.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Not Edgar Mitchell. The moon trip drove him to try to reconcile his two conflicting natures: the test pilot scientist and the spiritual pilgrim. He was off on his own voyage now to inner space, and there he met a shaman, a Tibetan healer. about the time his mother was ill. (Mitchell in spacesuit; Mitchell in pinning ceremony; spacecraft on moon; earth as seen from space; photo of Mitchell's mother and other women)

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Well, she was suffering and was legally blind. so I got the healer and my mother together just to see what would happen.

MURPHY: Wait-wait a second. Here you are, a guy from MIT, there's a lot of Edward's Air Force Base in you, a lot of translunar injection, and here you are talking to a guy from Tibet saying he's going to heal her.

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Well, I have to admit that-that it was incongruous, but my perverse curiosity said, 'let's find out if this guy's real.'

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And what Mitchell found out amazed him.
(Mitchell and Murphy in interview)

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Well, I got them together, and he did his thing which is primarily passing his hands over her head. And at 6:00 the next morning, mother came rushing into my room. her Bible in one hand, her glasses in the other and said, 'Son. I can see. I can see.'

MURPHY: What did you make of that?

Mr. E. MITCHELL: I was dumbfounded. So, I took the next logical step. I invited the man to come live with me for a while so I could figure out what was going on.

MURPHY: The astronaut who'd been to the moon is bunking with a Tibetan healer?

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Yep, and he's quite a guy.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Almost two years after his moonwalk, Mitchell left the astronaut core and started delving into the paranormal, and on that path less traveled, he shocked his old NASA buddies once again when he aligned himself with the controversial psychic Uri Geller, most famous for bending spoons, supposedly with his mind.

(Mitchell on moon; Mitchell at work with NASA; person rotating hands above a glass object; photo of Apollo 14 crew; Mitchell and Geller)
Offscreen voice: (Footage of Geller bending spoons) The spoon turns to plastic in his hands.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Mitchell personally championed Geller's research in the United States.

(Spoons; Geller)
MURPHY: But there are people. Doctor. who say, 'Fraud, charlatan, this guy's...'

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Sorry.

MURPHY: I've been sold a bill of goods.

Mr. E. MITCHELL: They're the ones that have to say, have to look a little deeper.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And now Mitchell is taking another step beyond, past healers and ESP. Get ready, this man who's been to the moon is saying publicly for the first time that he believes we have been visited by inhabitants of other planets, extraterrestrials, here. He says he's talked to people who've had close encounters of the third kind. (Stars in galaxy; planet; clouds; Mitchell walking; stars; earth)

Mr. E. MITCHELL: I have no firsthand experience, but I have had the opportunity to meet with people from three countries who in the course of their official duties claim to have had personal firsthand encounter experiences.

MURPHY: With extraterrestrials.

Mr E. MITCHELL- with extraterrestrials.

MURPHY: Aliens from some other place?

Mr. E MITCHELL: That's what they claim.

MURPHY- (Voiceover) Take for instance what may be the most famous sighting of UFO-ology, the wreckage of something that fell out of the sky and was found in the the desert of Roswell, New Mexico. in 1947. Mitchell is in the camp of those who believe it was a spacecraft. He scoffs, at the government's explanation of a crashed high-atmosphere balloon.

(Newspaper headlines; desert; headlines; photo of man with wreckage)
Mr. E. MITCHELL: The people that were there say that's utter nonsense. Come on. Let's have the truth.

MURPHY: Do you think it's more likely than not that extraterrestrials have been to this planet?

Mr. E. MITCHELL: From what I now understand and have experienced and seen the evidence for, I think the evidence is very strong, and large portions of it are classified.

MURPHY: Classified by whom?

Mr. E. MITCHELL: By governments.

MURPHY: You're saying it-it-it not only likely happened, but there's been a cover-up?

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Oh I--I think if it has happened the way it seems to be, there's definitely been a cover-up.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Mitchell wouldn't name names. but he says some of his information comes from former highly classified US government employees. people who say our government picked up sonic engineering secrets from UFOs. The Department of Defense declined to comment on Mitchell's allegations, but gave us the US Air Forces standard handout on unidentified flying objects, stating: "there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as 'unidentified' are extraterrestrial." Case closed.

(Murphy and Mitchell walking; Pentagon; Air Force handout on unidentified flying objects)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) So is Edgar Mitchell lost in space'? Not to audiences like this one at Cambridge University in England.

(Murphy and Mitchell; Cambridge audience)
Unidentified Man: (At assembly at Cambridge) This is a man who's travelled further than almost any of us.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Scientists and new-agers find something provocative in this quiet man from the moon.

(Mitchell at Cambridge)
Mr. E. MITCHELL: (Speaking to Cambridge audience) There is no unnatural or supernatural experience. There is just experience.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Mystic, astronaut and now author, Edgar Mitchell has written a book, "The Way of the Explorer," telling all about the incredible journey that is his life.

(Mitchell, woman and child walking on beach; front cover of Mitchell's book)
MURPHY: (Voiceover) It's been Almost three decades since man first hopped about the moon. and we're finding out that our astronaut heroes really were far more complex human beings than the image of the right stuff, A-OK pilots of NASA's public relations machine.

(Astronauts on moon; Astronauts on the Cover of Time magazine; photo of astronauts by spacecraft; astronauts on moon)

Mr. REINERT: At the time they were going to the moon they were so worried about all those little details, but as the years go by they forget all of those technical things, and what sticks in their minds are the powerful human moments that would have been in any tourist's mind, you know? (Voiceover) I mean, in a way, they were guys on a giant camping trip.

(Astronatus on moon)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And back at the pad where he began his journey 25 years ago, the astronaut nickmaned 'the brain' appreciates a rainbow while marvelling at the engineering that sent him into space.

(Murphy and Mitchell walking at launchpad; rainbow)
Mr. E. MITCHELL: (Voiceover) It's like an alive machine sitting there getting ready to go. It's impressive, it's emotional.

(Launchpad equipment)
MURPHY: (Voiceover) What a long, strange trip it's been for Edgar Mitchell.

(Apollo 14 taking off)

Murphy: You have been the subject - let's face it - over the years of a kind of wink, wink, nudge, nudge, oh there's Edgar Mitchell.

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Mm-hmm.

MURPHY: ESP, all of that stuff, that's.....


MURPHY: ....that's Edgar's thing.

Mr. E. MITCHELL: Yep. Yep.

MURPHY: Nice guy, but there he's - he's off - he's off in the asteroid belt.


MURPHY: Does it bother you when colleagues and friends regard the way you have thought in the last 20 years in that way?

Mr. E. MITCHELL: It is always difficult when you're a pioneer.


SHRIVER: Mitchell once dreamed of being part of a manned mission to Mars, and indeed sometime before the year 2020, NASA does hope to send men back to the moon and on to Mars.


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