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.
Apollo 12 Command Module separating from Lunar Module
Apollo landing sites comparison
Apollo 12 landing site photographed from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
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.
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.
At NASA Headquarters, George Mueller and other planners created a far-reaching plan that Administrator Paine made even more ambitious in adapting it for Nixon’s Space Task Group. The task group’s timetable called for a twelve-man space station and a reusable space shuttle as early as 1975. By 1980, the station would have grown into a fifty-man space base; five years later there would be a hundred men in orbit. Meanwhile, there would be a base in lunar orbit by 1976, with a base on the lunar surface two years later. Then, as early as 1981, the first manned expedition to Mars would depart from earth orbit.
We left off last week after Buzz Aldrin’s third and final EVA. The hard work for the Gemini 12 mission was now complete. Even with the problems with the radar, the Agena main engines, and the fuel cells, Gemini XII as a whole had gone very well…