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Apollo 12

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Apollo 12
Surveyor 3-Apollo 12.jpg
Commander Pete Conrad studies the Surveyor 3 spacecraft; the Apollo Lunar Module, Intrepid, can be seen in the top right of the picture.
Mission typeCrewed lunar landing (H)
OperatorNASA[1]
COSPAR ID
  • CSM: 1969-099A
  • LM: 1969-099C
SATCAT no.
Mission duration10 days, 4 hours, 36 minutes, 24 seconds
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft
Manufacturer
Launch mass101,127 pounds (45,870 kg)
Landing mass11,050 pounds (5,010 kg)
Crew
Crew size3
Members
Callsign
  • CSM: Yankee Clipper
  • LM: Intrepid
Start of mission
Launch dateNovember 14, 1969, 16:22:00 (1969-11-14UTC16:22Z) UTC
RocketSaturn V SA-507
Launch siteKennedy LC-39A
End of mission
Recovered byUSS Hornet
Landing dateNovember 24, 1969, 20:58:24 (1969-11-24UTC20:58:25Z) UTC
Landing siteSouth Pacific Ocean 15°47′S 165°9′W / 15.783°S 165.150°W / -15.783; -165.150 (Apollo 12 splashdown)
Orbital parameters
Reference systemSelenocentric
Periselene altitude101.10 kilometers (54.59 nmi)
Aposelene altitude122.42 kilometers (66.10 nmi)
Lunar orbiter
Orbital insertionNovember 18, 1969, 03:47:23 UTC
Orbital departureNovember 21, 1969, 20:49:16 UTC
Orbits45
Lunar lander
Spacecraft componentLunar Module (LM)
Landing dateNovember 19, 1969, 06:54:35 UTC
Return launchNovember 20, 1969, 14:25:47 UTC
Landing siteOcean of Storms 3°00′45″S 23°25′18″W / 3.01239°S 23.42157°W / -3.01239; -23.42157
Sample mass34.35 kilograms (75.7 lb)
Surface EVAs2
EVA duration
  • Total: 7 hours, 45 minutes, 18 seconds
  • First: 3 hours, 56 minutes, 03 seconds
  • Second: 3 hours, 49 minutes, 15 seconds
Docking with LM
Docking dateNovember 14, 1969, 19:48:53 UTC
Undocking dateNovember 19, 1969, 04:16:02 UTC
Docking with LM ascent stage
Docking dateNovember 20, 1969, 17:58:20 UTC
Undocking dateNovember 20, 1969, 20:21:31 UTC
Apollo 12 insignia.png Apollo 12 crew.jpg
Left to right: Conrad, Gordon, Bean 

Apollo 12 was the sixth crewed flight in the United States Apollo program and the second to land on the Moon. It was launched on November 14, 1969, from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, four months after Apollo 11. Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad and Apollo Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean performed just over one day and seven hours of lunar surface activity while Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon remained in lunar orbit. The landing site for the mission was located in the southeastern portion of the Ocean of Storms.

On November 19 Conrad and Bean achieved a precise landing at their expected location within walking distance of the site of the Surveyor 3 robotic probe, which had landed on April 20, 1967. They carried the first color television camera to the lunar surface on an Apollo flight, but transmission was lost after Bean accidentally pointed the camera at the Sun and the camera's sensor was destroyed. On one of two moonwalks they visited Surveyor 3 and removed some parts for return to Earth.

Lunar Module Intrepid lifted off from the Moon on November 20 and docked with the command module, which then, after completing its 45th lunar orbit,[4] traveled back to Earth. The Apollo 12 mission ended on November 24 with a successful splashdown.

Crew and key Mission Control personnel[edit]

Position Astronaut
Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr.[5]
Third spaceflight
Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon Jr.[5]
Second and last spaceflight
Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean[5]
First spaceflight

The commander of the all-Navy Apollo 12 crew was Charles C. "Pete" Conrad, who was 39 years old at the time of the mission. After receiving a bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Princeton University in 1953, he became a naval aviator, completing United States Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River NAS. He was selected in the second group of astronauts in 1962, and flew on Gemini 5 in 1965, and as command pilot of Gemini 11 in 1966. Command Module Pilot Richard "Dick" Gordon, 40 years old at the time of Apollo 12, also became a naval aviator in 1953, following graduation from the University of Washington with a degree in chemistry, and completed test pilot school at Patuxent River. Selected as a Group 3 astronaut in 1963, he flew with Conrad on Gemini 11.[6][7]

Originally, Conrad's Lunar Module pilot was Clifton C. Williams Jr., who was killed in October 1967 when the T-38 he was flying crashed near Tallahassee.[8] When forming his crew, Conrad had wanted Alan L. Bean, a former student of his at Patuxent River, but had been told by Director of Flight Crew Operations Deke Slayton that Bean was unavailable due to an assignment to the Apollo Applications Program. After Williams's death, Conrad asked for Bean again, and this time Slayton yielded.[9] Bean, 37 years old when the mission flew, had been a Naval ROTC student at the University of Texas, from which he graduated in 1955 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. Also a naval aviator, he was selected alongside Gordon in 1963, and first flew in space on Apollo 12,[6][10] the last Group 3 astronaut still with NASA in 1969 to make his first spaceflight.[11] All three of the astronauts had backed up Apollo 9 earlier in 1969.[12]

Apollo 12 flew the first three-member all-Navy crew

The Apollo 12 backup crew was David R. Scott as commander, Alfred M. Worden as Command Module pilot, and James B. Irwin as Lunar Module pilot. They became the crew of Apollo 15.[13]

For Apollo, a third crew of astronauts, known as the support crew, was designated in addition to the prime and backup crews used on projects Mercury and Gemini. Slayton created the support crews because James McDivitt, who would command Apollo 9, believed that, with preparation going on in facilities across the US, meetings that needed a member of the flight crew would be missed. Support crew members were to assist as directed by the mission commander.[14] Usually low in seniority, they assembled the mission's rules, flight plan, and checklists, and kept them updated;[15][16] For Apollo 12, they were Gerald P. Carr, Edward G. Gibson and Paul J. Weitz.[17]

Flight directors were Gerry Griffin, first shift, Pete Frank, second shift, Clifford E. Charlesworth, third shift, and Milton Windler, fourth shift.[18] Capsule communicators (CAPCOMs) were Scott, Worden, Irwin, Carr, Gibson, Weitz and Don Lind.[19]

Preparation[edit]

Site selection[edit]

The landing site selection process for Apollo 12 was greatly informed by the site selection for Apollo 11. There were rigid standards for the possible Apollo 11 landing sites, in which scientific interest was not a major factor: they had to be close to the lunar equator and not on the periphery of the portion of the lunar surface visible from Earth; they had to be relatively flat without major obstructions along the path the LM would fly to reach them, with their suitability confirmed by photographs from Lunar Orbiter probes. Also desirable was the presence of another suitable site further west in case the mission was delayed and the sun would have risen too high in the sky at the original site for desired lighting conditions. The need for three days to recycle if a launch had to be scrubbed meant that only three of the five suitable sites found were designated as potential landing sites for Apollo 11, of which the Apollo 11 landing site in the Sea of Tranquillity was the easternmost. Since Apollo 12 was to attempt the first landing if Apollo 11 failed, both sets of astronauts trained for the same sites.[20]

With the success of Apollo 11, it was initially contemplated that Apollo 12 would land at the site next further west from the Sea of Tranquility, in Sinus Medii. However, some argued for a landing close enough to the crater in which the Surveyor 3 probe had landed in 1967 to allow the astronauts to cut parts from it for return to Earth. The site was otherwise suitable, and had scientific interest. However, given that Apollo 11 had landed several miles off-target, some NASA administrators feared Apollo 12 would land far enough away that the astronauts could not reach the probe, and the agency would be embarrassed. Nevertheless, the ability to perform pinpoint landings was essential if Apollo's exploration program was to be carried out, and on July 25, 1969, Apollo Program Manager Samuel Phillips designated what became known as Surveyor crater as the landing site, overruling the unanimous recommendation of two site selection boards.[21]

Training and preparation[edit]

The Apollo 12 astronauts spent five hours in mission-specific training for every hour they could expect to spend in flight on the mission, a total exceeding 1,000 hours per crew member. This was in addition to the 1,500 hours of training they received as backup crew members for Apollo 9. The Apollo 12 training included over 400 hours per crew member in simulators of the CM and of the LM, Some of the simulations were linked in real time to flight controllers in Mission Control. To practice landing on the Moon, Conrad flew the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV),[22] even though Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong had been forced to bail out of a similar vehicle in 1968, just before it crashed.[23]

Soon after being assigned as Apollo 12 crew commander, Conrad met with NASA geologists and told them that the training for lunar surface activities would be conducted much as Apollo 11's, but there was to be no publicity or involvement by the media. Conrad felt he had been abused by the press during Gemini, and the sole Apollo 11 geology field trip had turned into a near-fiasco, with large numbers of media members getting in the way and the astronauts having trouble hearing each other due to a hovering press helicopter. After the successful return of Apollo 11 in July 1969, more time was allotted for geology, but the astronauts' focus was in getting time in the simulators without being pre-empted by the Apollo 11 crew. On the six Apollo 12 geology field trips, the astronauts would practice as if on the Moon, collecting samples and documenting them with photographs, while communicating with a CAPCOM and geologists who were out of sight in a nearby tent. Afterwards, the samples and photographs taken would be critiqued. To the frustration of the astronauts, the scientists kept changing the photo documentation procedures; after the fourth or fifth such change, Conrad required that there be no more.[24] After the return of Apollo 11, the Apollo 12 crew was able to view the lunar samples, and be briefed on them by scientists.[25]

As Apollo 11 was targeted for a ellipse-shaped landing zone, rather than at a specific point, there was no planning for geology traverses, with the designated tasks to be done at sites of the crew's choosing. For Apollo 12, prior to the mission, some of NASA's geology team met with the crew and Conrad suggested they lay out possible routes for him and Bean. The result was four traverses, based on four potential landing points for the LM. This was the start of geology traverse planning that on later missions became a considerable effort involving a number of organizations.[26]

The stages of the lunar module, LM–6, were delivered to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on March 24, 1969, and were mated to each other on April 28. Command module CM–108 and service module SM–108 were delivered to KSC on March 28, and were mated to each other on April 21. Following installation of gear and testing, the launch vehicle, with the spacecraft atop it, was rolled out to Launch Complex 39A on September 8, 1969.[27] The training schedule was complete, as planned, by November 1, 1969, with activities after that date intended as refreshers. The crew members felt that the training, for the most part, was adequate preparation for the Moon mission.[28]

Hardware[edit]

Launch vehicle[edit]

There were no significant changes to the Saturn V launch vehicle used on Apollo 12,[29] SA–507, from that used on Apollo 11. There were an additional 17 instrumentation measurements in the Apollo 12 launch vehicle, bringing the number to 1,365.[30] The entire vehicle, including the spacecraft, weighed 6,487,742 pounds at launch, an increase from Apollo 11's 6,477,875. Of this figure, the spacecraft weighed 110,044 pounds, up from 109,646 on Apollo 11.[31]

After LM separation, the third stage of the Saturn V, the S-IVB, was intended to fly into solar orbit. The S-IVB auxiliary propulsion system was fired, and the remaining propellants vented to slow it down to fly past the Moon's trailing edge (the Apollo spacecraft always approached the Moon's leading edge). The Moon's gravity would then slingshot the stage into solar orbit. However, a small error in the state vector in the Saturn's guidance system caused the S-IVB to fly past the Moon at too high an altitude to achieve Earth escape velocity. It remained in a semi-stable Earth orbit after passing the Moon on November 18, 1969. It finally escaped Earth orbit in 1971 but was briefly recaptured in Earth orbit 31 years later. It was discovered by amateur astronomer Bill Yeung who gave it the temporary designation J002E3 before it was determined to be an artificial object. Again in solar orbit, it may again be captured by Earth's gravity, but not at least until the 2040s.[32][33] The S-IVBs used on later lunar missions were deliberately crashed into the Moon to create seismic events that would register on the seismometers left on the Moon and provide data about the Moon's structure.[34]

Spacecraft[edit]

The Apollo 12 spacecraft consisted of Command Module 108 and Service Module 108 (together CSM–108), Lunar Module 6 (LM–6), a Launch Escape System (LES), and Spacecraft-Lunar Module Adapter 15 (SLA–15}. The Launch Escape System contained three rocket motors to propel the CM to safety in the event of an abort shortly after launch, while the SLA housed the LM and provided a structural connection between the Saturn V and the LM.[27][35] The SLA was identical to Apollo 11's, while the LES differed only in the installation of a more reliable motor igniter.[29]

The CSM was given the call sign Yankee Clipper, while the LM had the call sign Intrepid.[36] These were selected from several thousand proposed names submitted by employees of the prime contractors of the respective modules.[37][38]

The differences between the CSM and LM of Apollo 11, and those of Apollo 12, were few and minor. In the CSM, wire was rerouted to preclude a single point failure within the abort system logic.[29] A hydrogen separator was added to stop the gas from entering the potable water tank—Apollo 11 had had one, though mounted on the water dispenser in the CM's cabin. Other changes included the strengthening of the recovery loop attached following splashdown, meaning that the swimmers recovering the CM would not have to attach an auxiliary loop.[39] LM changes included a structural modification so that an ALSEP experiment package could be carried for deployment on the lunar surface.[40] Two hammocks were added for greater comfort of the astronauts while resting on the Moon, and a color television camera substituted for the black and white one used on the lunar surface during Apollo 11.[41]

ALSEP[edit]

The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, or ALSEP, was a suite of scientific instruments designed to be emplaced on the lunar surface by the Apollo astronauts, and thereafter operate autonomously, sending data to Earth. It was developed beginning in 1963 by NASA scientists and in 1966, a contract to design and build the ALSEPs was awarded to the Bendix Corporation. Due to the limited time the Apollo 11 crew would have on the lunar surface, a smaller suite of experiments was flown, known as the Early Apollo Surface Experiment Package (EASEP). Apollo 12 was the first mission to carry an ALSEP; one would be flown on each of the subsequent lunar landing missions, though the component that were included would vary.[42]

Apollo 12's ALSEP included a Lunar Surface Magnetometer (LSM), to measure the magnetic field at the Moon's surface, a Lunar Atmosphere Detector (LAD, also known as the Cold Cathode Ion Gauge Experiment), intended to measure the density and temperature of the thin lunar atmosphere and how it varies, a Lunar Ionosphere Detector (LID, also known as the Charged Particle Lunar Environment Experiment, or CPLEE), intended to study the charged particles in the lunar atmosphere, and the Solar Wind Spectrometer, to measure the strength and direction of the solar wind at the Moon's surface—the Solar Wind Composition Experiment, to measure what makes up the solar wind, would be deployed and then brought back to Earth by the astronauts.[43] A Dust Detector was used to measure the accumulation of lunar dust on the equipment.[44] The Passive Seismic Experiment (PSE), a seismometer, would measure moonquakes and other movements in the Moon's crust, and would be calibrated by the nearby planned impact of the ascent stage of Apollo 12's LM, an object of known mass and velocity hitting the Moon at a known location, and projected to be equivalent to the explosive force of one ton of TNT.[45]

The ALSEP experiments left on the Moon by Apollo 12 were connected to a Central Station, which contained a transmitter, receiver, timer, data processor, and equipment for power distribution and control of the experiments.[46] The equipment was powered by SNAP-27, a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) developed by the Atomic Energy Commission. Containing plutonium, the RTG flown on Apollo 12 was the first use of atomic energy on a crewed NASA spacecraft—some NASA and military satellites had previously used similar systems. The plutonium core was brought from Earth in a cask attached to an LM landing leg, a container designed to survive re-entry in the event of an aborted mission, something NASA considered unlikely.[47] The cask would be put to the test on Apollo 13, and survived re-entry to sink in the Tonga Trench of the Pacific Ocean, apparently without radioactive leakage.[48]

The Apollo 12 ALSEP experiments were commanded on from Earth on November 19, 1969. The LSM was commanded off on June 14, 1974, as was the other LSM deployed on the Moon, from Apollo 15. All powered ALSEP experiments that remained active were commanded off on September 30, 1977.[49] This termination happened principally due to budgetary reasons.[50]

Mission parameters[edit]

LM–CSM docking[edit]

  • Undocked: November 19, 1969 – 04:16:02 UTC
  • Redocked: November 20, 1969 – 17:58:20 UTC

Extravehicular Activities (EVAs)[edit]

EVA 1 start: November 19, 1969, 11:32:35 UTC[edit]

  • Conrad – EVA 1
  • Stepped onto Moon: 11:44:22 UTC
  • LM ingress: 15:27:17 UTC
  • Bean – EVA 1
  • Stepped onto Moon: 12:13:50 UTC
  • LM ingress: 15:14:18 UTC

EVA 1 end: November 19, 15:28:38 UTC[edit]

  • Duration: 3 hours, 56 minutes, 03 seconds

EVA 2 start: November 20, 1969, 03:54:45 UTC[edit]

  • Conrad – EVA 2
  • Stepped onto Moon: 03:59:00 UTC
  • LM ingress: 07:42:00 UTC
  • Bean – EVA 2
  • Stepped onto Moon: 04:06:00 UTC
  • LM ingress: 07:30:00 UTC

EVA 2 end: November 20, 07:44:00 UTC[edit]

  • Duration: 3 hours, 49 minutes, 15 seconds

Mission highlights[edit]

Pete Conrad descends from the lunar module.
Alan Bean photographed by Pete Conrad (reflected in Bean's helmet)

Launch[edit]

Apollo 12 launches from Kennedy Space Center, November 14, 1969

Apollo 12 launched as planned at 11:22:00 on November 14, 1969 (16:22:00 UT) from Kennedy Space Center. This was at the start of a launch window of three hours and four minutes to reach the Moon with optimal lighting conditions at the planned landing point.[52][53] There were completely overcast rainy skies, encountering wind speeds of 151.7 knots (280.9 km/h; 174.6 mph) during ascent, the highest of any Apollo mission.[54] There was a NASA rule against launching into a cumulonimbus cloud; this had been waived and it was later determined that the launch vehicle never entered such a cloud.[55]

Lightning struck the Saturn V 36.5 seconds after lift-off, triggered by the vehicle itself. The static discharge caused a voltage transient that knocked all three fuel cells offline, meaning the spacecraft was being powered entirely from its batteries, which could not supply enough amperage to meet demand. A second strike at 52 seconds knocked out the "8-ball" attitude indicator. The telemetry stream at Mission Control was garbled. However, the Saturn V continued to fly normally; the strikes had not affected the Saturn V instrument unit guidance system, which functioned independently from the CSM. The astronauts unexpectedly had a board red with caution and warning lights, but could not tell exactly what was wrong.[56][57]

Electrical, Environmental and Consumables Manager (EECOM) John Aaron remembered the telemetry failure pattern from an earlier test when a power loss caused a malfunction in the CSM signal conditioning electronics (SCE), which converted raw signals from instrumentation to data that could be displayed on Mission Control's consoles, and knew how to fix it.[57][58] Aaron made a call, "Flight, EECOM. Try SCE to Aux", to switch the SCE to a backup power supply. The switch was fairly obscure, and neither Flight Director Gerald Griffin, CAPCOM Gerald Carr, nor Conrad knew what it was; Bean, who as LMP was the spacecraft's engineer, knew where to find it and threw the switch, after which the telemetry came back online, revealing no significant malfunctions. Bean put the fuel cells back online, and the mission continued.[57][59] Once in Earth parking orbit, the crew carefully checked out their spacecraft before re-igniting the S-IVB third stage for trans-lunar injection. The lightning strikes caused no serious permanent damage.[60]

Initially, it was feared that the lightning strike could have damaged the explosive bolts that opened the Command Module's parachute compartment. The decision was made not to share this with the astronauts and to continue with the flight plan, since they would die if the parachutes failed to deploy, whether following an Earth-orbit abort or upon a return from the Moon, so nothing was to be gained by aborting.[61] The parachutes deployed and functioned normally at the end of the mission.[62]

Outward journey[edit]

After systems checks in Earth orbit, performed with great care because of the lightning strikes, the trans-lunar injection burn, made with the S-IVB, took place at 02:47:22.80 into the mission, setting Apollo 12 on course for the Moon. An hour and twenty minutes later, the CSM separated from the S-IVB, after which Gordon performed the transposition, docking and extracting maneuver to dock with the LM and separate the combined craft from the S-IVB, which was then sent on an unsuccessful attempt to reach solar orbit.[63][64]

As there were concerns the LM might have been damaged by the lightning strikes, Conrad and Bean entered it on the first day of flight to check its status, earlier than planned. They found no issues. At 30:52.44.36, the only necessary midcourse correction during the translunar coast was made, placing the craft on a hybrid, non-free-return trajectory. Previous crewed missions to lunar orbit had taken a free-return trajectory, allowing an easy return to Earth if the craft's engines did not fire to enter lunar orbit. Apollo 12 was the first crewed spacecraft to take a hybrid free-return trajectory, that would require another burn to return to Earth, but one that could be executed by the LM's Descent Propulsion System (DPS) if the SM's Service Propulsion System (SPS) engine failed. The use of a hybrid trajectory allowed more flexibility in mission planning, for example allowing Apollo 12 to launch in daylight and reach the planned landing spot on schedule.[65]

Lunar orbit and Moon landing[edit]

Lunar Module Intrepid above the Moon. The small crater in the foreground is Ammonius; the large crater at right is Herschel. Photograph by Richard F. Gordon Jr. on board the Command Module Yankee Clipper.
High-resolution Lunar Orbiter 3 image of the Apollo 12 landing site at center, used in mission planning. The area shown is approximately 1.75 x 1.75 km.
Landing site photographed by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2011

Apollo 12 entered a lunar orbit of 170.2 x 61.66 nmi with an SPS burn of 352.25 seconds at mission time 83:25:26.36. On the first lunar orbit, there was a television transmission that resulted in good-quality video of the lunar surface. On the third lunar orbit, there was another burn to circularize the craft's orbit to 66.1 x 54.59 nmi, and on the next revolution, preparations began for the lunar landing. The CSM and LM undocked at 107:54:02.3; a half hour later there was a maneuver to separate them.[66]

The LM's Descent Propulsion System began a 29 second burn at 109:23:39.9 to move the craft to a lower orbit, from which the 717-second powered descent to the lunar surface began at 110:20:38.1.[66] Conrad had trained to expect a pattern of craters known as "the Snowman" to be right before him when the craft underwent "pitchover", with the Surveyor crater in its center, but had feared he would see nothing recognizable. He was astonished to see the Snowman right where it should be, meaning they were directly on course. He took over manual control, planning to land the LM, as he had in simulations, in an area near the Surveyor crater that had been dubbed "Pete's Parking Lot", but found it rougher than expected. He had to maneuver,[67] and landed the LM at 110:32:36.2 (06:54:36 UT on November 19, 1969), just 535 feet (163 m) from the Surveyor probe.[68] The Lunar coordinates of the landing site were 3.01239° S latitude, 23.42157° W longitude.[69]

The second lunar landing was an exercise in precision targeting, which would be needed for future Apollo missions. Most of the descent was automatic, with manual control assumed by Conrad during the final few hundred feet of descent. Unlike Apollo 11, where Neil Armstrong had to use the manual control to direct his lander downrange of the computer's target, which was strewn with boulders, Apollo 12 succeeded in landing at its intended target—within walking distance of the Surveyor 3 probe, which had landed on the Moon in April 1967.[70] This is the first and thus far only occasion in which humans have revisited a probe sent to land on another world.

Conrad actually landed Intrepid 580 feet (177 m) short of "Pete's Parking Lot", because it looked rougher during final approach than anticipated, and was a little under 1,180 feet (360 m) from Surveyor 3, a distance that was chosen to eliminate the possibility of lunar dust (being kicked up by Intrepid's descent engine during landing) from covering Surveyor 3.[71] But the actual touchdown point—approximately 600 feet (183 m) from Surveyor 3—did cause high velocity sandblasting of the probe. It was later determined that the sandblasting removed more dust than it delivered onto the Surveyor, because the probe was covered by a thin layer that gave it a tan hue as observed by the astronauts, and every portion of the surface exposed to the direct sandblasting was lightened back toward the original white color through the removal of lunar dust.[72]

EVAs[edit]

Pete Conrad's quote while descending the LEM ladder

When Conrad, who was somewhat shorter than Neil Armstrong, stepped onto the lunar surface, his first words were "Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me."[70][73] This was not an off-the-cuff remark: Conrad had made a US$500 bet with reporter Oriana Fallaci he would say these words, after she had queried whether NASA had instructed Neil Armstrong what to say as he stepped onto the Moon. Conrad later said he was never able to collect the money.[74][75]

To improve the quality of television pictures from the Moon, a color camera was carried on Apollo 12 (unlike the monochrome camera on Apollo 11). Unfortunately, when Bean carried the camera to the place near the LM where it was to be set up, he inadvertently pointed it directly into the Sun, destroying the Secondary Electron Conduction (SEC) tube. Television coverage of this mission was thus terminated almost immediately.[76]

Apollo 12 successfully landed within walking distance of the Surveyor 3 probe. Conrad and Bean removed pieces of the probe to be taken back to Earth for analysis. It is claimed that the common bacterium Streptococcus mitis was found to have accidentally contaminated the spacecraft's camera prior to launch and survived dormant in this harsh environment for two and a half years.[77] However, this finding has since been disputed: see Reports of Streptococcus mitis on the Moon.

Astronauts Conrad and Bean also collected rocks and set up equipment that took measurements of the Moon's seismicity, solar wind flux and magnetic field, and relayed the measurements to Earth.[78] The instruments were part of the first complete nuclear-powered ALSEP station set up by astronauts on the Moon to relay long-term data from the lunar surface. The instruments on Apollo 11 were not as extensive or designed to operate long term. The astronauts also took photographs, although by accident Bean left several rolls of exposed film on the lunar surface. Meanwhile, Gordon, on board the Yankee Clipper in lunar orbit, took multi-spectral photographs of the surface.

Replica of the plaque attached to the Apollo 12 LM

The lunar plaque attached to the descent stage of Intrepid is unique in that unlike the other plaques, it (a) did not have a depiction of the Earth, and (b) it was textured differently: The other plaques had black lettering on polished stainless steel while the Apollo 12 plaque had the lettering in polished stainless steel while the background was brushed flat.

Return[edit]

A solar eclipse seen from Apollo 12
Apollo 12 recovery by USS Hornet

Intrepid's ascent stage was dropped (per normal procedures) after Conrad and Bean rejoined Gordon in orbit. It impacted the Moon on November 20, 1969, at 3°56′S 21°12′W / 3.94°S 21.20°W / -3.94; -21.20 (Apollo 12 Intrepid lunar module impact). The seismometers the astronauts had left on the lunar surface registered the vibrations for more than an hour.

The crew stayed an extra day in lunar orbit taking photographs, for a total lunar surface stay of 31 and a half hours and a total time in lunar orbit of eighty-nine hours.

On the return flight to Earth after leaving lunar orbit, the crew of Apollo 12 witnessed (and photographed) a solar eclipse, though this one was of the Earth eclipsing the Sun.

Splashdown[edit]

Yankee Clipper returned to Earth on November 24, 1969, at 20:58 UTC (3:58 pm EST, 10:58 am HST), in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 500 nautical miles (800 km) east of American Samoa. During splashdown, a 16 mm film camera dislodged from storage and struck Bean in the forehead, rendering him briefly unconscious. He suffered a mild concussion and needed six stitches.[79] After recovery by USS Hornet, they were flown to Pago Pago International Airport in Tafuna for a reception, before being flown on a C-141 cargo plane to Honolulu.

Stunts and mementos[edit]

  • Alan Bean smuggled a camera-shutter self-timer device on to the mission with the intent of taking a photograph with himself, Pete Conrad and the Surveyor 3 probe in the frame. As the timer was not part of their standard equipment, such an image would have thrown post-mission photo analysts into confusion over how the photo was taken. However, the self-timer was misplaced during the extra-vehicular activity (EVA) and the plan was never executed.[80]
  • As one of the many pranks pulled during the friendly rivalry between the all-Navy prime crew and the all-Air Force backup crew, the Apollo 12 backup crew managed to insert into the astronauts' lunar checklist (attached to the wrists of Conrad's and Bean's space suits) reduced-sized pictures of Playboy Playmates, surprising Conrad and Bean when they looked through the checklist flip-book during their first EVA. The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal website contains a PDF file with the photocopies of their cuff checklists showing these photos.[81] Appearing in Conrad's checklist were Angela Dorian, Miss September 1967 (with the caption "SEEN ANY INTERESTING HILLS & VALLEYS ?") and Reagan Wilson, Miss October 1967 ("PREFERRED TETHER PARTNER," referring to a special procedure that would require the sharing of life support resources). The photos in Bean's cuff checklist were of Cynthia Myers, Miss December 1968, who was 17 years old at the time of her photoshoot[82][83] ("DON'T FORGET – DESCRIBE THE PROTUBERANCES") and Leslie Bianchini, Miss January 1969 ("SURVEY – HER ACTIVITY," in pun of Surveyor).[84][85] The backup crew who did this later flew to the Moon themselves on Apollo 15. At the back of Conrad's checklist they had also prepared two pages of complex geological terminology, added as a joke to give him the option to sound to Mission Control like he was as skilled as a professional career geologist. The third crewmember orbiting the Moon was not left out of the Playboy prank, as a November 1969 calendar featuring DeDe Lind, Miss August 1967, had been stowed in a locker that Dick Gordon found while his crewmates were on the lunar surface. In 2011, he put this calendar up for auction. Its value was estimated by RR Auction at US$12,000–15,000.[86][87] While the Command Module Pilot calendar was in full color, the lunar checklists carried black & white photocopies (although these were dramatized in the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon as full color photos in the checklists).
  • Artist Forrest "Frosty" Myers claims to have installed the art piece Moon Museum on "a leg of the Intrepid landing module with the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman Corporation after attempts to move the project forward through NASA's official channels were unsuccessful."[88]
  • Alan Bean left a memento on the Moon: his silver astronaut pin.[70] This pin signified an astronaut who completed training but had not yet flown in space; he had worn it for six years. He was to get a gold astronaut pin for successfully completing the mission after the flight and felt he wouldn't need the silver pin thereafter.[70] Tossing his pin into a lunar crater extended the common tradition among military pilots to ceremonially dispose of their originally awarded flight wings.

Mission insignia[edit]

Apollo 12 space-flown silver Robbins medallion

The Apollo 12 mission patch shows the crew's navy background; all three astronauts at the time of the mission were U.S. Navy commanders. It features a clipper ship arriving at the Moon, representing the CM Yankee Clipper. The ship trails fire, and flies the flag of the United States. The mission name APOLLO XII and the crew names are on a wide gold border, with a small blue trim. Blue and gold are traditional U.S. Navy colors. The patch has four stars on it – one each for the three astronauts who flew the mission and one for Clifton Williams, a U.S. Marine Corps aviator and astronaut who was killed on October 5, 1967, after a mechanical failure caused the controls of his T-38 trainer to stop responding, resulting in a crash. He trained with Conrad and Gordon as part of the backup crew for what would be the Apollo 9 mission, and would have been assigned as lunar module pilot for Apollo 12.[70]

Spacecraft location[edit]

Apollo 12 CM Yankee Clipper on display at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia

The Apollo 12 command module Yankee Clipper is on display at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia.[89]

In 2002, astronomers thought they might have discovered another moon orbiting Earth, which they designated J002E3, that turned out to be the S-IVB third stage of the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket.[90]

Series of time-lapse LRO images showing a day at the Apollo 12 landing site, with the flag still standing

The Lunar Module Intrepid impacted the Moon November 20, 1969, at 22:17:17.7 UT (5:17 pm EST) 3°56′S 21°12′W / 3.94°S 21.20°W / -3.94; -21.20 (Apollo 12 Intrepid lunar module impact).[91] In 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) photographed the Apollo 12 landing site. The Intrepid lunar module descent stage, experiment package (ALSEP), Surveyor 3 spacecraft, and astronaut footpaths are all visible.[92] In 2011, the LRO returned to the landing site at a lower altitude to take higher resolution photographs.[93]

Orbital leftovers[edit]

The Apollo 12 third stage, an S-IVB, after passing the Moon on 18 November 1969 and not entering a Lunar orbit like the Command Module and Lunar Lander, entered an elliptical Earth orbit with a period of approximately 43 days,[94] and thus became a derelict satellite orbiting Earth. Some time later, the spent third stage entered a heliocentric orbit, but was not observed doing so. The likely mechanism was via one of the Sun-Earth Lagrangian points, which serve "as a 'portal' between the regions of space gravitationally controlled by the Earth and Sun."[94]

Notably, in April 2002, it reentered a temporary orbit around the Earth-Moon system near the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrangian point—"a location where the gravity of the Earth and Sun approximately cancel"[94]—and remained in orbital synchrony with both the Moon and the Earth for a little over a year, reentering a heliocentric orbit in May 2003. The object was "discovered" by near-Earth object watcher Bill Yeung on 3 September 2002, labeled object "J002E3" by the Minor Planet Center, and was subsequently identified as the former Apollo 12 stage only several days later. The rocket stage is "the first known case of an object being captured by the Earth, although Jupiter has been known to capture comets via the same mechanism."[94][needs update]

Depiction in media[edit]

Portions of the Apollo 12 mission are dramatized in the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon episode entitled "That's All There Is." Conrad, Gordon, and Bean were portrayed by Paul McCrane, Tom Verica, and Dave Foley, respectively. Conrad had been portrayed by a different actor, Peter Scolari, in the first episode.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

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