|Apollo 12 was the second
manned mission to land on the Moon. Its
destination on the Moon was Oceanus Procellarum
(the Ocean of Storms).
The Commander for Apollo 12 was chosen to be
Charles Peter (Pete) Conrad, Jr. Conrad
was a veteran of two Gemini flights.
Selected as the Apollo 12 Command Module pilot
was Richard Francis Gordon, Jr. Gordon had
flown in space with Conrad on Gemini XI.
Chosen to be Lunar Module Pilot was Clifton
Curtis Williams, Jr. Williams did not have
any spaceflight experience. Two years
before Apollo 12 would fly, on October 5, 1967,
Williams was killed when the T-38 jet he was
Commander Conrad requested that Alan Lavern Bean
take over the vacant Lunar Module Pilot position
on the crew. Conrad and Bean had been
classmates at US Naval Test Pilot School at
Patuxent River, Maryland. Conrad, Gordon,
and Bean had also served as the backup crew for
Yankee Clipper was the name given to the Apollo
12 Command Module. The Lunar Module was
called Intrepid. The crew asked the people
who built these two spacecraft to submit a list
of names fro the vehicles. It is from
those two lists that Yankee Clipper and Intrepid
for Apollo 12 was November 14, 1969. The
weather at the launch site that day was very
poor. There was considerable rain in the
area and a cloud ceiling of only 2100 feet
The Apollo 12
Saturn V lifted off at 11:22 AM Eastern Standard
Time. The rocket disappeared into the base
of the cloud. Observers on the ground saw
two bright blue flashes in the area where the
rocket had been. 36 seconds after launch, the
unthinkable had occurred. Lightening had
struck the spacecraft. 16 seconds later
the rocket was struck by lightening for a second
Caution and warning lights on the command module
control panel lit up like a Christmas
tree. Conrad radioed, "We just lost the platform gang.
I don't know what happened here; we had
everything in the world drop out."
At the time people in mission control were not
sure what had happened. They were not
aware of the lightening strike. Their telemetry
screens were reading gibberish. This
situation had never been planned for in
simulations. The flight controller in charge of
the electrical systems for the Command and
Service Module, John Aaron, remembered an event
that inadvertently had happened a year
accidentally powered up the space vehicle using
only a single battery during a test
sequence. This resulted in the same type
of gibberish telemetry that he now saw on Apollo
12. Aaron told the capsule communicator to
have Astronaut Bean turn a switch, known as the
Signal Condition Equipment switch, to auxiliary.
capsule communicator radioed, "Apollo 12, Houston. Try SCE to
auxiliary. Over." This selected a
backup power supply and telemetry from the
rocket was restored.
Despite the problems the Saturn V continued its
flight. After the first stage dropped off
and the second stage took over. Conrad
radioed, "Okay, now we will straighten
put our problems here. I don't know what
happened; I'm not sure we didn't get hit by
Spacecraft systems knocked off line were
reactivated and Apollo 12 safely reached
orbit. Decisive action by Flight
Controller Aaron and Astronaut Bean had saved
the rocket. A concerned mission control
team then instructed the crew on how to verify
the integrity of the vehicle systems.
The vehicle checked OK and the crew was given
the go ahead for Trans Lunar Injection.
The J2 rocket engine on the S-IV-B was fired and
Apollo 12 was on its way to the Moon. The
Command Service Module separated from the S-IVB,
transposed its position, docked with the Lunar
Module and extracted it.
November 18, 1969, the Service Propulsion System
engine on the Service Module was fired to insert
the Apollo 12 crew and their spacecraft into
lunar orbit. Bean complimented Gordon, "Man! Look, at that place.
Outstanding effort there, Dick Gordon.
Flash Gordon pilots again!" Conrad
commented, "Good Godfrey! That's
a God-forsaken place; but it's beautiful,
Conrad and Bean took their positions in Lunar
Module Intrepid and the hatches were sealed
between the two vehicles on November 19,
1969. Astronaut Gordon remained in the
Command Module Yankee Clipper. The two
vehicles were undocked and the legs on
Intrepid's Descent Stage were deployed into the
Conrad and Bean fired the descent engine on
Intrepid and headed toward their destination on
the Moon. Their destination was not just
the Ocean of Storms. It was a specific crater
called where robot explorer Surveyor III had
landed on April 20, 1967. Examining Surveyor III
after 31 months of exposure to the space
environment was a primary objective for Conrad
The landing of Apollo 11 had not been very
precise. It took quite some time for the
scientists and engineers to determine exactly
where Apollo 11 had landed on the Moon. The
imprecision was caused by the significant
variations of lunar gravity during the course of
a lunar orbit. It was difficult to predict
the exact orbit of a lunar spacecraft due to
concentrations of dense material in the lunar
sphere known as Mascons.
Apollo 12 was using a new technique of analyzing
orbital data and three powerful tracking
stations on Earth to get better navigational
information. Prior to the launch the
trajectory engineer asked Astronaut Conrad where
he wanted to land in relationship to Surveyor
III. Conrad, unsure of the precision of
the navigation, asked to be targeted for the
middle of the crater where Surveyor III had
Much to Conrad's surprise, when they neared the
surface of the Moon, Intrepid was headed
directly for the center of Surveyor
crater. Conrad remarked "Hey it's started right for the center
of the crater..." Astronaut Conrad took
over manual control of the vehicle and
maneuvered to the edge of the crater. If
they had landed directly in the center of the
crater it would have been too close to Surveyor
As Intrepid got closer to the surface of the
Moon a tremendous amount of dust was stirred up
by the blast from the descent engine. The
crew was blinded by this dust and had to rely on
their instrumentation for the landing.
of three of the legs of the lunar module
protruded thin probes that reach down toward the
surface. When one of the
probes came in contact with the surface, a blue
light, known as the "Contact Light" would
illuminate on the Lunar Module control
As Conrad hovered over the surface, Bean
announced "Contact light"
and Conrad shut down the engine on the lunar
module. With an abrupt thud, Intrepid landed on
the Moon, having fallen the remaining six feet
after the descent engine was turned off.
Bean remarked to Conrad, "Good landing Pete! Outstanding man!"
Astronaut Charles Peter (Pete) Conrad Jr. became
the third man to walk on the surface of the
Moon. On November 19, 1969, Conrad jumped
off the bottom rung of the Lunar Module ladder
and exclaimed, "Whoopee! Man, that
may have been a small one for Neil, but that's
a long one for me."
Conrad had made a bet with an Italian journalist
that he could say whatever he wanted to when he
stepped on the lunar surface. The
journalist had been convinced that NASA scripted
the communication for Neil Armstrong and forced
him to say it when Armstrong became the first
man to step on the Moon. Conrad won the
During Conrad's first
few moments on the surface he told Bean, "Guess what I see sitting on the side
of the crater." Bean responded, "The old Surveyor, huh?"
Conrad confirmed, "The old
Surveyor; yes sir. Does that look
neat? It can't be any farther than 600
feet from here. How about that?"
Conrad found working on the Moon to be a very
dirty environment. Conrad remarked, "Man, did I get dirt all over
myself. This is what is known as dirt's
Conrad was really enjoying himself on the
surface. As he loped about, he hummed, "Dum dum, tunk-e tunk-e tum. Trying to
learn to move faster. Pretty good. Hey, I feel
exuberant Conrad added, "De-dum
dum dum. I feel like Bugs Bunny."
short while after Commander Conrad was on the
surface; Lunar Module Pilot Bean joined
him. Alan Lavern Bean the fourth person to
walk on the Moon.
of Bean's first tasks on the surface was to
remove the television camera from its position
on the lunar module and reposition it on the
surface. While he was doing this, Bean
pointed the camera into the Sun. Sadly
this burned out the camera rendering it useless
for the rest of the mission.
remember being tremendously disappointed when
that happened. I was in my usual roost,
perched in front of our black and white
television, captivated by the second exploration
of the lunar surface. Suddenly, less than
an hour into the EVA, the images were
gone. We would not witness Conrad and Bean
examining Surveyor III. We could only hear
Bean was instructed to try and fix the camera by
tapping it with his hammer. He radioed, "I hit it on the top with my hammer. I
figured we didn't have a thing to lose. I just
pounded it on the top with this hammer that
I've got." The capsule communicator
in Houston joked, "Skillful fix,
Al." Bean agreed, "Yes, that's skilled craftsmanship."
At the time I seriously wondered if the camera
had not been destroyed intentionally.
Could it be that the astronauts just did not
want someone looking over there shoulder?
I was devastated and I am sure the geologists in
Houston were disappointed as well.
and Bean erected an American flag on the lunar
surface. There was some difficulty in
doing that. The rod that was supposed to hold
the flag outstretched on the airless Moon would
not cooperate so the flag draped down at an
angle. Conrad radioed, "Okay, the flag is up. We hope
everyone down there is as proud of it as we
are to put it up."
Conrad then requested Bean to take a photo of
him with the flag saying, "Can we have a quickie here?"
One of the more striking color images to come
from Apollo 12 was a photograph that Bean took
of Conrad with the flag.
The EVA continued as Conrad and Bean set up an
important array of scientific instruments on the
lunar surface called the Apollo Lunar Scientific
Experiment Package (ALSEP). The ALSEP
package would continue monitoring conditions at
the Ocean of Storms long after the Apollo 12
crew had left.
A thermonuclear reactor using radioactive
plutonium powered ALSEP. The plutonium gave off
heat that was converted into electricity by
thermocouples. Conrad and Bean had a
great deal of difficulty extracting the
plutonium fuel element from its holder on the
After struggling with it for some time, Conrad
resorted to tapping on the side of the container
while Bean pulled on the element. That
finally loosened it and Bean extracted the
element. Bean commented, "Keep it going baby. That hammer's a
universal tool." Later
Bean stated, "Hey, don't ever - don't ever come to the
Moon without a hammer."
One of the
instruments that the electrical generator
powered was a seismometer to record seismic
activity on the Moon. The instrument was
so sensitive that it was even able to record the
footsteps of the Apollo 12 astronauts during the
rest of their EVA.
The first EVA ended after 3 hours and 56
minutes. Conrad and Bean would rest before
they would walk over to examine Surveyor
III. When he landed Intrepid, Conrad
had indeed put the vehicle down about 600 feet
away from Surveyor.
On November 20, 1969 Conrad and Bean were on the
lunar surface for their second EVA.
The astronauts bounded their way into the crater
for a close up inspection of Surveyor.
They found that it was not white as it had been
when it left the Earth but was tan or
brown. It seemed to the astronauts that
the dust kicked up by their lunar landing must
have blanketed the dormant Surveyor with a layer
Conrad and Bean removed parts off of Surveyor to
bring back to Earth for analysis.
Scientists were interested to find out how the
long-term exposure to the space environment had
affected the materials. Items brought back
from Surveyor, included Surveyors television
camera, metal tubing, electrical wiring, and the
scoop with which it dug in the lunar surface.
After 3 hours and 49 minutes, the second EVA had
ended. Conrad and Bean had finished their
exploration of the Ocean of Storms. The
farthest they had walked away from the Lunar
Module was 1,361 feet. They collected 74.8
pounds of lunar samples.
On November 20, 1969, about 6.5 hours after
their final EVA ended; Conrad and Bean fired the
ascent engine on Intrepid and the ascent stage
lifted off from the Moon. Intrepid headed
for a rendezvous with Yankee Clipper.
Typically the mission commander flew Lunar
Module. The Lunar Module Pilot assists by
observing and reporting readings from the
instruments. When they were on the far
side of the Moon, Conrad asked Bean if he would
like to fly the Lunar Module.
Of course Bean did want to fly the
Lunar Module but told Conrad that the people in
Mission Control would not like the variance from
procedures. Commander Conrad's response to
Lunar Module Pilot Bean was that they were on
the backside of the Moon, out of communication
from Earth, who would know? So Alan Bean
became the first and perhaps only Lunar Module
Pilot to actually fly the Lunar Module.
rendezvoused and was docked with Yankee
Clipper. When Gordon opened the hatch, he
saw that Conrad and Bean were covered with lunar
dust. Desiring to maintain a clean ship,
Gordon requested Conrad and Bean to strip out of
their clothing and clean up before they could
come on board the command module. Conrad said, "Listen we're so filthy dirty, I can't
believe it." Gordon responded, "Why don't you take those suits off
over there?" 240,000 miles away from
Earth, Conrad and Bean entered the command
module, the way they came into the world, naked.
After transferring the cargo of lunar samples
from Intrepid, the Lunar Module was jettisoned.
Intrepid was deliberately crashed into the Moon
as part of a seismic experiment. The
effect of the impact was recorded by the newly
deployed ALSEP seismometer at the Ocean of
Storms. Seismologists were surprised by
what they saw. Unlike it would have done
on Earth, the impact on the Moon caused it to
ring like a seismic bell. The
reverberating shock waves continued for 55
minutes. On the Earth the shock waves
would have ceased after 2 minutes.
Apollo 12 remained in lunar orbit for a few more
revolutions taking photographs and making
observations of future landing sites. On
November 21, 1969, the service propulsion system
engine was fired and Yankee Clipper and her crew
left lunar orbit to return home to the
Earth. Upon coming around the far side of
the Moon for the final time Conrad announced, "Hello Houston; Apollo 12 en route
Reentry from the Moon is a violent process that
dissipates a great deal of kinetic energy.
During reentry Bean exclaimed, "It won't be long now. Babe we're
whistling in. You can tell we're lower."
Conrad responded, "How about
35,481 feet per second!"
On November 24, 1969, the Apollo 12 crew
splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. The
primary recovery ship for this mission was the
The flight duration for Apollo 12 was 10 days, 4
hours, 36 minutes and 25 seconds.