Apollo 12 Mission Summary

apollo 12 mission summary

Apollo 12 successfully navigated its journey to and from the moon despite two lightning strikes which caused minor instrumentation issues, allowing Conrad and Bean to conduct scientific experiments on its surface.

Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean were Navy pilots who became close as shipboard cabin-mates; all three astronauts formed an unbreakable bond as an unwavering team.


Charles “Pete” Conrad, Alan Bean and Richard Gordon didn’t need much encouragement when they prepared to launch Apollo 12 from Florida on November 19, 1969 despite overcast skies; not even from their commander, President Richard Nixon. Nixon made good on his pledge by being present when Intrepid and Yankee Clipper lifted off at 11:22am that day on their Saturn V launch vehicle.

The mission’s primary objectives included performing an accurate lunar landing, deploying and collecting samples with the ALSEP seismometer and collecting rocks from around the Moon. Additionally, crew wanted to study Sharp crater as its surface hadn’t yet been disrupted by other events and therefore could provide valuable evidence regarding what lay beneath its soil layer.

To do this, the astronauts took a long walk that began at the site of their ALSEP deployment and continued south past Head Crater to Bench and Sharp Craters and Halo Crater before finally entering Surveyor Crater – their destination for rock collection – where they collected parts of their lander.

Apart from their primary objectives, astronauts also conducted several other experiments. For instance, they tested a new thermal generator which used natural radioactive decay of a small plutonium source to provide 75 watts of power to support scientific equipment onboard the mission.

The astronauts also studied the impact of a young crater on nearby rocks to gain more understanding about its internal structures and composition, as well as analyzing how an ascent stage jettisoned onto the Moon via an ascent stage launch-and-crash experiment affected it using seismic sensors built into ALSEP to measure its effects.


After Apollo 11’s success, scientists turned their focus toward sending another spacecraft into orbit and landing it on the Moon. Apollo 12, launched from Kennedy Space Center on November 14, 1967 and managed to perform another successful lunar landing despite being struck twice during its initial minute of flight by lightning bolts. Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean managed to land their LM (Intrepid) within walking distance of where Surveyor III had touched down on April 20, 1967 – this demonstration of precision landing set a precedent that allowed future astronauts to visit scientifically valuable spots on Earth as well.

Although Intrepid’s location wasn’t initially chosen as the preferred site by geologic scientists, it did offer certain advantages according to Don Wilhelm in To a Rocky Moon. Its surface was covered by debris from Copernicus crater’s young eruption; therefore ensuring it remained relatively contaminant-free; additionally its flat terrain made navigation simpler for astronauts; finally its proximity to Surveyor probe was of particular significance since astronauts wanted to demonstrate they could reach it even when traversing difficult terrain.

On Intrepid’s flight to the Moon, its crew carried out two midcourse maneuvers. One altered Intrepid’s trajectory to prepare for lunar orbit insertion; during another maneuver Intrepid entered an elliptical orbit. Unfortunately during one such maneuver Bean accidentally pointed his TV monitor camera towards a bright reflector on Yankee Clipper spacecraft, burning out its vidicon imaging tube in the process – an oversight he later blamed on NASA only having received its prototype flight camera just prior to launch of their mission.

On November 19th, the crew successfully performed a double separation between CSM and LM, broadcasting a telecast showing them in both spacecraft during this process. Subsequently, after lunar orbit insertion and just before descent started, another telecast featured them entering their CSMs as they prepared for landing.


Apollo 12 experienced few significant problems on its outbound voyage to the Moon. Although it was twice struck by lightning, the second strike only caused instrumentation issues which could easily be rectified. Furthermore, astronauts were within walking distance of Surveyor III probe which soft-landed on April 20, 1967, providing ample opportunity to demonstrate their lunar landing site selection procedure could successfully select landing sites with sites of scientific significance nearby.

Conrad and Bean found themselves approximately 30 minutes behind schedule when concluding their initial EVA, yet were generally unfazed by this delay. Heart rates remained low; whistling was no longer possible under 3.7 psi suit pressure; and both scientists were content that their equipment had been deployed properly for their purposes.

Bean was on his way back from moving the colour TV camera away from the LM when it suddenly stopped working, leading mission control staff to lose track of figures as they scrolled across monitors in mission control instead of letters and numbers as usual. TV networks had cleared their schedules and sold advertising space in anticipation of broadcasting live colour footage of Bean’s lunar walk and its first live colour footage being transmitted live over television networks. This unexpected setback had serious repercussions for broadcasting first live colour footage from an lunar walk on television networks who had cleared their schedules and sold advertising space prior to its departure from Earth orbit.

Alan Bean smuggled in a small self-timer device on the next EVA in order to capture photos of himself and Pete Conrad with Surveyor 3 as background. Although not strictly necessary equipment, Alan hoped the stunt would show their sense of humor even in times of near disaster.


On November 14th 1969, Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean made their inaugural extravehicular activity (EVA). As part of this EVA they collected samples of lunar terrain while showing that their LM could land precisely where intended.

Conrad and Bean were eager to get going after a brief phone call to Houston; although neither were able to sleep well despite having purchased new mattresses and heaters; Bean even attempted taking sleeping pills without success – when their alarm went off at seven, both men were awake and prepared for action.

Before departing the LM, the crew performed one last check of their ALSEP equipment and SNAP-27 RTG systems. On lunar revolution 39, Gordon performed a change-of-plane maneuver with SPS that caused an empty ascent stage to crash into the Moon resulting in measured seismic impulses for use by ALSEP seismology experiment.

The astronauts spent much of their time collecting rock and soil samples at the surface, as well as retrieving Surveyor III parts that had been placed near the landing site 30 months earlier. Conrad and Bean put forth great effort on two EVAs, prompting their flight surgeon to restrict their activity levels.

Once they were back aboard the LM, the astronauts used the voice link with Earth to transmit real data and corrective maneuver instructions to the automated downrange navigation computer, shortening its range by 4,190 feet and enabling a precise landing at their target site.


Apollo 12 took off from Cape Canaveral on November 14, 1969 under the command of Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean for one day and seven hours of lunar surface activity while Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon remained in lunar orbit – expanding on the success of Apollo 11, yet offering more time for exploration.

As they climbed, the crew encountered an unexpected difficulty: lightning striking twice on Saturn V caused its attitude control indicators to malfunction and power to be cut to CSM fuel cells; but quick-thinking flight controllers helped save a potential abort by suggesting that crew flip an obscure switch in order to restore fuel cell power.

Launch and earth orbit checkout went smoothly, though the astronauts had to manually reactivate some systems that had been disabled for safety reasons during liftoff. On their first of two EVAs, the astronauts deployed an S-band antenna and solar wind composition experiment, an American flag, the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) with SNAP-27 atomic generator and took photos of themselves, the spacecraft and themselves – plus took photographs of Surveyor 3 probe that had landed two and half years prior. Later they got close enough to examine how its instrumentation had changed during two-and-half years of exposure versus previous testing by unbolting several parts and unbolting several pieces to check its instrumentation after two and half years in space exposure and take pictures.

On November 18, two and a half days into the mission, a six-minute S-IVB burn launched the lunar module Yankee Clipper into its moon-parking orbit. Conrad and Bean then separated it from its companion CSM which had been jettisoned into an orbit to rendezvous with LM Intrepid. Two orbits later, another S-IVB burn circularized its orbit further preparing it to dock with LM Intrepid.

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