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!”