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Fifty Years Ago: Two Weeks to Go Until Apollo 12


John Uri |
October 30, 2019

With the launch of Apollo 12 rapidly approaching, teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center successfully completed one of the final significant activities to prepare the rocket, spacecraft, crew and ground controllers for the second Moon-landing mission. NASA managers announced the symbolic activities planned for the Apollo 12 astronauts on the lunar surface. A Moon rock returned by the Apollo 11 crew went on public display at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in Houston, now Johnson Space Center, while the Apollo 11 astronauts and their wives, on the other side of the world, neared the end of their goodwill world tour. 

Left: Apollo 12 crew (front to back) Pete Conrad, Alan Bean and Richard Gordon suit up for the CDDT. Right: Apollo 12 crew (left to right) Bean, Conrad and Gordon arrive at Launch Pad 39A for the CDDT. Image Credits: NASA

The Countdown Demonstration Test (CDDT) for the Apollo 12 mission concluded successfully on Oct. 29, 1969. The CDDT, a full dress rehearsal for the actual countdown to launch, consisted of two parts. The “wet” phase included workers at Launch Pad 39A fueling the rocket as if for launch, with the countdown cutting off just prior to first-stage engine ignition, and did not involve the flight crew. The one-day “dry” phase followed, an abbreviated countdown without the fueling of the rocket, but with the flight crew of Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon and Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean boarding the Command Module Yankee Clipper as if on launch day. Despite rain and high winds at the launch pad during the simulated liftoff time, managers declared the CDDT a success, clearing the way for Apollo 12’s Nov. 14 launch. 

Left: Firing Room at the Launch Control Center during the Apollo 12 CDDT. Right: The Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket on Launch Pad 39A during the CDDT. Image Credits: NASA

NASA announced the symbolic activities planned for the Apollo 12 astronauts on the lunar surface. As on Apollo 11, they would plant an American flag in the lunar soil near the Lunar Module (LM) Intrepid and unveil a plaque affixed to the LM’s ladder leg strut engraved with their names and signatures. Also as with Apollo 11, they would carry to the Moon and back flags of all the member states and specialized agencies of the United Nations and all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and territories, for eventual presentation to those entities. Additionally, they would carry a number of small U.S. flags to be distributed by the president of the United States or the NASA administrator. 

Left: Replica of the plaque left on the Moon by Apollo 12. Right: Apollo 11 Moon rock fragment in a display case at the MSC. Image Credits: NASA

A fragment of a Moon rock returned by the Apollo 11 astronauts went on public display outside the MSC auditorium on Oct. 29—only the second such sample accessible to the public after the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., unveiled the first one in September. The 31-gram fine-grained crystalline fragment measuring 1.25-by-1-by-.75 inches and contained a large number of vesicles lined with highly reflective crystals.

 Left: Apollo 11 astronauts and their wives arrive at the Sydney, Australia, airport. Right: Apollo 11 astronauts and their wives arrive in Agana, Guam.

Halfway around the world, Apollo 11 astronauts and their wives—Neil and Janet Armstrong, Michael and Patricia Collins, and Buzz and Joan Aldrin—accompanied by their NASA and State Department entourage, neared the end of the presidential Giantstep goodwill world tour. Leaving Bangkok, Thailand, they stopped briefly in Perth, Australia, to refuel their presidential jet before continuing on to Sydney.  From there they continued to Agana (now Hagåtña), Guam; Seoul, Republic of Korea; Tokyo, Japan; and, finally, the United States. At each stop, heads of state and other dignitaries greeted the astronauts while cheering crowds welcomed them as they rode through the streets in motorcades.

Following the Countdown Demonstration Test, the Apollo 12 crew of (from left) Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon and Alan Bean pose in front of their Saturn V. Image Credit: NASA
Following the Countdown Demonstration Test, the Apollo 12 crew of (from left) Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon and Alan Bean pose in front of their Saturn V. Image Credit: NASA
In the White Room, Conrad (at rear) is about to enter the Command Module Yankee Clipper as Bean awaits his turn. (Gordon was waiting outside the White Room.) Image Credit: NASA
In the White Room, Conrad (at rear) is about to enter the Command Module Yankee Clipper as Bean awaits his turn. (Gordon was waiting outside the White Room.) Image Credit: NASA