While the tragedy of Pearl Harbor forced the United States into World War II, the Enola Gay bombing in the South Pacific finished it.
On November 14, 1969, the second manned lunar mission took off for the moon from Cape Kennedy. The target of the spacecraft and its crew of three astronauts (Alan L. Bean, Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr., and Richard F. Gordon Jr.) was the Ocean of Storms – the largest dark spot on the moon – and this time around, NASA hoped to land with more precision than the first mission with Apollo 11, which landed four miles away from the target.
Although the mission ended up going down in history as “The Pinpoint Mission” because of its remarkable precision and timeliness, the launch did not go according to plan – Mother Nature had some alternative plans for Apollo 12! This mission started with a jolt. At just 36 seconds (2000 meters from the Earth’s surface) and again at 52 seconds, the Saturn V Launch Vehicle was struck by lightning as it propelled its way from Cape Kennedy. Worried for the state of the spacecraft, the astronauts launched Apollo 12 into an initial Earth-parking orbit, and after just over one revolution, the electrical circuits were checked out and no significant issues were found, allowing them to continue their mission and place Apollo 12 into an initial free-return translunar trajectory.
Much of the mission was telecasted on live television in the United States, much to the amazement of many Americans back down on Earth. Conrad, the commander of the mission, whooped with glee when he recognized a crater he had memorized on maps back on Earth as they made to land the spacecraft. Excitement wore off quickly when he decided the area they had previously plotted for landing was too rocky, so he carefully steered Apollo 12 to an alternate site. Because of their precise landing, they were able to complete their mission: take samples, experiment with running techniques and take bits of Surveyor (which had landed on the moon two years prior) away with them.
In less than a decade following President Kennedy’s plea to Congress to fund space exploration, the space program became a source of great national pride. The program spurred innovation and technological advancements as the scientists were encouraged to share practical applications for advancements that came through research as NASA. Such innovations include advancements in telecommunications, Teflon, portable power tools (batteries), non-reflective monitors, joysticks, and infrared monitors (technology used in the ear thermometer), just to name a very small sample.
Shown here, a piece proudly owned by Mercury One, is the site 7 Hazard map used in the Apollo 12 mission and is signed by Allen Bean, the lunar module pilot for Apollo 12.
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