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US Astronaut on Apollo 14 Dies in Florida

FILE - Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell is seen in an undated picture released by NASA.

U.S. astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who flew on the Apollo 14 mission and became the sixth man on the moon, has died in Florida at age 85.

Family members said Mitchell died Thursday night at a hospital in West Palm Beach after a short illness.

Mitchell, one of only 12 people to set foot on the moon, joined NASA in 1966. He helped to design and test the first lunar modules that reached the moon in 1969. He was on the Apollo 14 crew in 1971 with Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

The Apollo 14 astronauts were the first crew to try to reach the moon after Apollo 13's astronauts were nearly killed when an oxygen tank exploded on the space craft. Mitchell was initially scheduled to be on that fateful flight, but was bumped to the next mission.

Mitchell devoted much of his later life to understanding consciousness and unexplained phenomena, including exploring the possibility that aliens exist.