Fifty years ago today, Apollo 12 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center destined for the Moon, four months after the amazing Apollo 11 made history. As the sixth crewed flight in the United States Apollo program, it was commanded by Charles “Pete” Conrad, along with Alan L. Bean as the Lunar Module Pilot and Richard F. Gordon in the Command Module Pilot seat.
On November 19th, Conrad and Bean made it safely to the designated landing site on the lunar surface, which Conrad nicknamed “Pete’s Parking Lot”, located in the southeastern portion of the Ocean of Storms. They performed just over one day and seven hours of data collection, while Gordon kept an eye on things in orbit. Conrad and Bean carried a color television camera to the lunar surface with the intention of live feeding the second Moon landing to folks back on Earth, but transmission was lost after Bean accidentally pointed the camera at the Sun and the camera’s sensor was destroyed.
While on the surface, they visited the site of the Surveyor 3 robotic probe, which landed on the Moon in April 1967, and removed parts to send back to Earth for analysis. Fun Fact: This was the first, and only, occasion in which humans have “caught up” to a probe sent to land on another world. The astronauts also collected lunar rocks and set up equipment that took measurements of the Moon’s seismicity, solar wind flux and magnetic field, relaying this information to Earth.
Before Conrad and Bean returned to orbit, Bean left his silver astronaut pin (indicating an astronaut who has not flown in space yet) that he had worn for six years as a momento on the lunar surface. Once they rejoined Gordon, the crew stayed an extra day in orbit taking photographs. In total, they spent 31.5 hours on the lunar surface and 89 hours in lunar orbit. On the return flight to Earth, they witnessed a solar eclipse – with the Earth eclipsing the Sun for a change!
Fun Fact: During splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on November 24, 1969, a 16 mm film camera dislodged from storage and struck Bean in the forehead, rendering him unconscious for a short time. He suffered a mild concussion and needed six stitches, but lived to regale the tale!
We salute you, gentlemen!