James Benson Irwin (March 17, 1930 - August 8, 1991) was a member of the Apollo 15 mission and the eighth man to walk on the Moon. He was one of the first men to ride the lunar rover on the Moon.
Irwin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from East High School, Salt Lake City, Utah. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in naval science from the United States Naval Academy in 1951 and a Master of Science in aeronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1957.
Upon graduation from the Naval Academy, he was commissioned in the United States Air Force. He received his flight training at Hondo Air Base and Reese Air Force Base, Texas. He graduated from the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School in 1961 and the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School in 1963. Prior to joining NASA, he was Chief of the Advanced Requirements Branch at Headquarters Air Defense Command.
Irwin was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He also served as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10 and as backup lunar module pilot for the Apollo 12 flight. Irwin logged 295 hours and 11 minutes in space, 19 hours and 46 minutes of which were in Extra-Vehicular Activity.
Beyond his achievements as an astronaut with NASA, Irwin is perhaps most notable for his attempts to use his experiences on the Moon to spread his belief in Christianity. He left NASA and retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel in 1972 and founded High Flight, a Christian ministry. He frequently commented about how his experiences in space had made the presence of God even more real to him than before.
Beginning in 1973, Irwin led several expeditions to Mount Ararat, Turkey in search of the remains of Noah's Ark. His expeditions failed to find any sign of the Ark. In 1982, he was injured during the descent from the mountain and had to be carried for part of the way.
Irwin suffered a serious heart attack near his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He died as the result of a subsequent heart attack in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He is survived by his wife Mary Ellen and their five children.