There was adrenaline in Pete Conrad’s voice as he counted down the last seconds before ignition. He and Bean were still weightless, but their bodies were secured to the cabin floor by harnesses. “Seven, six, five.” Conrad pushed the PROCEED button on the computer, and a moment later Intrepid’s descent engine ignited 50,000 feet above the moon.
At 83 hours mission elapsed time, the long lunar coast was almost over. It was time for the lunar orbit insertion burn. This burn would put Yankee Clipper and Intrepid into lunar orbit.
It was impossible to check out the entire spacecraft; that could only be done on the ground. In the short time available, Grifﬁn’s team ran a pre-maneuver check list, re-aligned the CSM platform, and discussed proceeding with the mission with the crew.
John Aaron’s (EECOM) next call made him a legend in Mission Control. He said quickly and conﬁdently, “Flight, try S-C-E to Aux.”
It was 68 degrees, overcast, and raining at Cape Kennedy on November 14, 1969. The ceiling was 2,100 feet and the winds were light. There was some discussion, while the astronauts were suiting-up, of scrubbing the launch, but that would mean ramping this whole thing down, draining every drop of fuel out of the Saturn, and sitting on their hands for a twenty-eight-day hold.
The Saturn V’s control system was housed inside and also referred to as the Instrument Unit (IU). Marshall Space Flight Centers Astrionics Laboratory categorized the IU as the “brain” and “nerve center” of Saturn V.
John Young enjoyed the longest career of any astronaut thus far. Over the course of 42 years of active NASA service he made six space flights and is the only person to have piloted, and been commander of four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo Command/Service Module, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle.
Pete Conrad joined NASA as part of the second group of astronauts, known as the New Nine, on September 17, 1962. He was regarded as one of the best pilots in the group, and was among the first of his group to be assigned a Gemini mission.