Just before the mission began things started to go wrong. The weekend before launch Charlie Duke, the backup lunar module pilot, came down with a case of German measles.
Targeted for touchdown on the third lunar landing was a place known as the Fra Mauro range, a stretch of rugged, Appalachian-type mounds 110 miles east of the Apollo 12 landing site.
Ten days ago, their Saturn V rocket had blasted Bean and his crew mates out of earth’s gravitational pull. Now their home planet was pulling them back at more than 24,000 miles per hour, twelve times faster than a high-speed rifle bullet. “Boy,” said Bean, “we are really hauling!”
Dick Gordon opened the tunnel to Intrepid, saw his companions floating in a dirty cloud of moon dust, and slammed the hatch closed. He called out, “You guys ain’t gonna mess up my nice clean spacecraft!”
After a total of 31.6 hours on the moon, the Lunar Module ascent stage fired for about 7 minutes placing Intrepid into an orbit of 10 miles by 54 miles.
Toward the end of January 1967, it was revealed that Lunar Module 1 would not reach the Cape in February, as expected. This meant, the moon landing might be delayed because the lander was not ready. But the mission planners could not wait for the Apollo engineers to iron out all the problems. They had to plan for a landing in 1969 and hope that the hardware would catch up with them.
Conrad and Bean now walked north, up Surveyor Crater’s 14 degree slope. Fatigue set in as Pete and Al walked up the crater wall. The hand tool carrier was nearly full of rocks now and Bean felt the full weight of it.
Surveyor 3 was now to their right, 300 feet away, gleaming in the morning sunlight. Antennas and sensors still reached upward from its tubular frame, just as they had on April 20, 1967, when the spacecraft thumped onto the moon amid blasts from its braking rockets.