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 A-12 Collection

  Lightning Rod

Apollo 12

Photo Credit and Image Copyright: EarthToTheMoon.com Photo Credit: NASA
Section Of Apollo 12 Launch Tower Lightning
Apollo 12 Lightning Strike
Section of Lightning Rod From Apollo 12 Launch Tower
Lightning Strikes The Launch Tower During Apollo 12 Launch
This artifact is a section of the lightning rod from the Apollo 12 launch tower.  Shortly after the liftoff of Apollo 12, lightning struck the rocket.  The lightning bolt continued down to the launch tower completing the circuit through the lightning rod from which this section was cut.

It was only through a quick reactions by the ground and astronauts that the Apollo 12 mission was saved.  It was a miraculous recovery.

The lighting rod section is mounted to a wooden plaque.  The plaque was presented to Don E. Phillips.  A brass plate on the plaque is inscribed, "Don E. Phillips / Chief Test Supervisor /  A Memento From The Apollo 12 Launch / SHAZAM!!"

This artifact was consigned for auction on eBay.  The description from that auction stated, "At 36 seconds into the flight of Apollo 12, a stroke of lightning struck the spacecraft, proceeding down through the launch vehicle and down to the mobile launcher.

Pete Conrad reported " We just lost the platform. I don't know what happened here. We had everything in the world drop out-------". A quick thinking JSC flight controller made a suggestion which Al Bean performed to return order to the spacecraft and the flight continued to be highly successful.

It was later theorized that the 363 foot long vehicle plus its long flaming tail became a lightning rod which triggered static electricity in the clouds.

After the launch, the copper lightning mast that was atop the mobile launcher was cut into pieces and given to a very small number of key launch personnel as a memento. A five inch long segment of the rod is attached to this plaque given to one of those key NASA launch persons. This item is truly very rare.

The Earth To The Moon Air &  Space Museum acquired this artifact from the eBay auction on March 25, 2000.

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UPDATED : March 30, 2008
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