Ex-Astronaut Irwin Suffers Heart Attack
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ James B. Irwin, the eighth out of a dozen astronauts to walk on the moon, was in critical and unstable condition after suffering a heart attack, apparently while jogging, authorities said.
The 56-year-old Irwin, who also led expeditions to finds Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey, collapsed Friday. He was found lying on the curb, Fire Lt. Andrew Collins said.
Sue McBroom, emergency medical technician dispatcher for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, said rescuers used a defibrillator, which delivers a shock of electricity to the heart, to restore Irwin’s heart beat.
″When we first got to him, he had no pulse,″ said paramedic Richard Burns. ″After we defibrillated him, he had a pulse. Initially, it was weak but before we got him to the hospital (a 10-minute drive) it was a good, strong pulse.″
″I’ve always been interested in the space program and I know who James Irwin is,″ Burns said. ″It was neat to know we did something good for him.″ Doctors late Friday were running tests on Irwin and estimated it would be 24 hours before his condition stabilized, Penrose Hospital nursing supervisor Sharon Istvan said.
Irwin, who lives in Colorado Springs, was lunar module pilot for the Apollo 15 flight, July 26 to Aug. 7, 1971. He and David R. Scott remained on the lunar surface for 66 hours and 54 minutes.
The mission was the fourth of six lunar landings between July 16, 1969, when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. ″Buzz″ Aldrin Jr. landed on the moon, and December 1972, when Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt landed. Each mission had two astronauts make moon walks.
Both Irwin and Scott registered cardiac irregularities while working on the lunar surface, a problem that doctors attributed to a deficiency of potassium in their space food diet. The experience caused the food in later Apollo flights to be enriched with potassium.
Several months after returning to Earth, the Apollo 15 crewmen confirmed that they had arranged for the sale of stamped envelopes that they had taken to the moon and back. Scott and Irwin admitted that they had spent part of their time in the lunar module on the moon canceling stamps that they planned to sell to a European stamp dealer.
The discovery prompted a reprimand for the three astronauts and forced a change in NASA’s policy about what astronauts may carry into space. Scott, Irwin and Worden all left the astronaut corps within a few months.
Irwin, retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel, became an evangelist and traveled the country to speak before church and revival audiences. He later founded an evagelistic organization and named it ″High Flight″ after a poem written by a pilot. The former astronaut also worked for the Denver-based Manville Corp.
Irwin also led several expeditions to Turkey in search of Noah’s Ark, which he believed was somewhere on Mount Ararat. In 1982, his search for the ark ended with a fall that hospitalized him with minor head injuries.
He suffered his first heart attack in 1973, at age 43. The attack came while he was playing handball. He underwent cardiac bypass surgery in 1977, but later that year suffered a second heart attack.