Third and Forth Ain’t Bad
November 19, 1969: Third & Forth Human on the Moon
Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean land at Oceanus Procellarum (the “Ocean of Storms”) and become the third and fourth humans to walk on the Moon.
[Top picture: Charles Conrad Jr., Apollo 12 Commander, examines the unmanned Surveyor III spacecraft during the second extravehicular activity (EVA-2). The Lunar Module (LM) “Intrepid” is in the right background.]
Apollo 12 was the sixth manned 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. Mission commander Charles “Pete” Conrad and 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.
Unlike the first landing on Apollo 11, Conrad and Bean achieved a precise landing at their expected location, the site of the Surveyor 3 unmanned 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 destroyed the camera by pointing it at the Sun. On one of two moonwalks, they visited the Surveyor, and removed some parts for return to Earth. The mission ended on November 24 with a successful splashdown.
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.
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.
Alan Bean left a memento on the Moon: his silver astronaut pin. 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. Tossing his pin into a lunar crater extended the common tradition among military pilots to ceremonially dispose of their originally awarded flight wings.