Famous Freemasons From History!

Bro. James Irwin, Moon-Walker (Posted 8/5/2015)

March 31, 2023

“Space: the final frontier,” is a quote that many of us grew up listening to during the title sequence of Star Trek; whether narrated by Captain Kirk or Captain Picard, it has gone down in infamy. While many of us have only dreamed of sitting aboard a space shuttle and plunging into the great unknown, there are a special few who have had the honor. Tomorrow, August 8, we honor the death of a fellow freemason who not only soared into space, but walked on the moon: Bro. James B. Irwin.

Born on March 17, 1930, Jim was raised by Irish immigrants in Pittsburgh, PA. His family moved during his youth to Utah and would stay there as he finished high school at East High in Salt Lake City in 1947. James attended and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1951 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science. Bro. Irwin then received his Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering and Instrumentation Engineering from the University of Michigan a short six years later.

Jim spent the next decade training with the US Air Force as a pilot at the Hondo and Reese Air Force Bases in Texas. Irwin received several awards and medals during his service, including two Air Force Commendation Medals. He had the honor of being a developmental pilot for the Lockheed YF-12 Interceptor Aircraft. This bird flew close to Mach 3 in 1963 would be the inspiration to the iconic SR-71 Blackbird.

In 1966, James Irwin was selected, along with eighteen other astronauts, by NASA for the next batch of space runs. Jim served as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10; the mission that served as a dress rehearsal for the iconic moon landing by Buzz Aldrin (a fellow Freemason and Scottish Rite Member). Bro. Irwin also served as part of the backup crew for Apollo 12 which was the second mission to land on the moon. After Apollo 12 touched down in August of 1969, it was only a short two years before Jim got the chance to feel the moon beneath his feet for himself.

Apollo 15 would be the first mission of its kind. Originally slated to be a similar mission to Apollo 12, 13 and 14, NASA decided to extend the mission into a “J Mission” on September 2, 1970. The three astronauts of the prime crew, David Scott, Alfred Worden and James Irwin, would have the honor of an extended stay on the moon and first use of the lunar rover. The three pilots spent extensive time receiving geology research training. On July 26, 1971, after two years of training, Apollo 15 was cleared for takeoff.

Once they landed on the moon on July 30, the team spent more than eighteen hours over three days exploring the moon’s surface. James Irwin was the eighth person to step foot on the moon. Irwin’s team discovered and return with the Genesis Rock which is the first lunar rock brought back to earth. The team left the moon and spent some time making final observations of the moon before returning to Earth on August 2, 1971. While making docking procedures with their Command/Service Module after lifting off from the moon, doctors on Earth noticed a heartbeat irregularity in Irwin’s vitals. Not being able provide Jim any assistance remotely, Dr. Charles Berry allowed Jim to continue working while wearing a pressure suit. This suit, coupled with the 100% oxygen he was breathing and zero g, allowed his heart to function without the normal strains of Earth’s gravity and resync itself. He returned to Earth without any further complications.

Jim had two heart attacks after returning home. One came mere months after the conclusion of the Apollo 15 mission, but proved not to be fatal. His fatal attack came on August 8, 1991 near his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Bro. Irwin was a member of Tajon Lodge #104 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Jim was a pious man who strongly believed in God and his family and friends. There is not much that can be said of him that would live up to what he has meant to Freemasonry and his country. He will always be remembered as a man who, “explored strange new worlds, seek out new life, and boldly go where no one has gone before.”

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