Last week, on February 4th, Astronaut Ed Mitchell died, bringing the number of surviving moonwalkers down to seven. The news reports referred to him alternately as “the last Apollo 14 astronaut” and “the sixth man to walk on the moon.” But while there are lists all over the internet of the twelve men who walked on the moon, I had a hard time finding a list of their compatriots: the astronauts who went all the way to the moon, but who never made it down to the surface. But Wikipedia does list them, a seeming appendix to the landers, these astronauts who aren’t remembered quite so well.
So without further ado, let’s rectify that: here are the fourteen men who nearly walked on the moon.
First we have the missions that never even made it to the surface.
Jim Lovell was also on Apollo 13, as well, making him the only man ever to fly to the moon twice without landing.
Then there are the six command module pilots who stayed behind in orbit, in order to pick up the moonwalkers when they returned.
Apollo 11‘s CMP Michael Collins:
Apollo 12‘s CMP Dick Gordon:
Apollo 14‘s CMP Stuart Roosa:
Apollo 15‘s CMP Al Worden:
Apollo 16‘s CMP Ken Mattingly (who later flew two shuttle missions):
and Apollo 17‘s CMP Ron Evans:
The last man to orbit the moon alone, Ron Evans passed away in 1990. Jack Swigert passed away in 1982, just weeks after being elected to Congress, and Stuart Roosa passed away in 1994, meaning this selective club is down to just eleven members. At age 79, Ken Mattingly is the youngest.
It’s got to be a hell of a thing to get so close and not set foot on the Moon, but without them the guys who got more glory wouldn’t have been able to do what they did. So let’s celebrate the men who nearly walked on the moon.
*Note also that I haven’t included the three members of Apollo 9, James McDivitt, David Scott, and Rusty Schweickart, whose invaluable mission spent ten days in low Earth orbit and set the stage for landing the following Apollo missions. Not that they shouldn’t be remembered, but in terms of the Moon, they don’t quite fit the category.
Richard Ford Burley is a writer and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.