LUNAR EXPLORATION BEGINS

Preparations for the Second Mission:

On April 10, 1969, following the success of Apollo 9, MSC announced the names of the crews for Apollo 12. The prime crew was commanded by Charles ("Pete") Conrad, Jr., astronaut since 1962 and veteran of two missions, Gemini V and Gemini XI. His lunar module pilot was Alan L. Bean, who joined the program with the third group but had yet to fly a mission. Rounding out the crew as command module pilot was Richard F. Gordon, Jr., a member of the third class of astronauts, who had flown with Conrad on Gemini XI. The three, all Navy aviators, had trained together as backup crew on Apollo 9. Named to the backup crew were commander David R. Scott, who had flown with Neil Armstrong on the prematurely terminated Gemini VIII mission, and two astronauts from the fourth group of pilots, lunar module pilot James B. Irwin and command module pilot Alfred M. Worden.32 Irwin's and Worden's only prior experience had been on support crews, Irwin on Apollo 10 and Worden on Apollo 9. As support crew for Apollo 12, Deke Slayton picked Gerald P. Carr and Paul J. Weitz, two pilots from the fourth astronaut class, and Edward G. Gibson, the first scientist-astronaut named to any Apollo crew position.33 For Gibson and his colleagues this was recognition of a sort. No one yet knew how support crews would fare in later competition for prime crew slots* - so far, only one had gotten as far as a backup crew - but his appointment was a sign that they had at least not been completely forgotten.

In April 1969 no one could be certain that Apollo 11 would make the first lunar landing, so training for Conrad, Bean, and Gordon was very much like that for Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. Nominally both crews were preparing to land at any of three sites; actually, their site-specific training concentrated on only one, simply because there was not time to prepare adequately for three.34 Apollo 11's primary target was site 2, in the Sea of Tranquility; 12 focused on site 5, in Oceanus Procellarum.

As was normal when two crews were in training simultaneously, the crew assigned to the earlier mission had priority in use of the command module and lunar module simulators until just before launch. Conrad and his group spent their training time on other phases: briefings on systems, thermal-vacuum tests, design reviews, geology classes and field trips, and the thousand and one other details that went into preparation for a lunar mission.35 When Apollo 11 returned successful in late July, the launch date for Apollo 12 was moved to November and two months were gained for preparation.


* As it turned out, 8 of the first 13 astronauts named to support crews eventually made lunar flights.


32. NASA Release 69-53, Apr. 10, 1969; "Crew to Make 2d Landing On Moon Set," Washington Post, Apr. 11, 1969.

33. Ivan D. Ertel and Roland W. Newkirk, with Courtney G. Brooks, The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, vol. IV, NASA SP-4009 (Washington, 1978), pp. 408-9.

34. Sevier interview.

35. "Apollo 12 Crew Training Summaries (Mar. 28-Nov. 14, 1969)," folder in box 081-14, JSC History Office files.


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