|Apollo 12 Vol 2
The Nasa Mission Reports
by Robert Godwin
It's 35 years since the Intrepid voyage to the Ocean of Storms. Ask the average person to name the crew and you'll be lucky if they can name even one of them. Ironically this collective amnesia is likely to be transitory, in a couple of hundred years from now the names of Conrad, Gordon and Bean will probably find their true place in the annals of human history.It is my sincere hope and fervent belief that by the 23rd century we will be a true space-faring civilization, one which remembers its forebears with the honor and repect they earned.
Meanwhile, back here in the turgid backwaters of the early 21t century some of us do what we can to keep the flame of hope alive. The average person may look into the following pages and see only statistics and charts but if you look hard enough you can see that they contain the hard-earned kernels of our collective future. Lest this data languish into obscurity we have replicated it here for future students to ponder.
Captured here are the details of leaky spacesuits, rockets struck by lightning, spacesuit cooling systems which stop working because the spacecraft's door got stuck closed and cameras which were disabled by dust. Then there was the hydrogen tank which failed at the last minute and was fixed by pulling its counterpart from Apollo 13, or the outrageous pinpoint landing by Pete Conrad through a pall of lunar dust, so bad he couldn't see the surface from 40 feet up. If you want to know why that TV camera failed or just how badly decomposed the robotic Surveyor had become after three years on the moon, it's all here.
Let's also not forget the fact that Apollo 12 was the first to use the hybrid trajectory with its so-called non-free-return. Such trajectory for Apollo 13, without correction, would have been fatal.
Then as if to really test the mettle of its hardy crew, the Command Module Yankee Clipper threw one last curve-ball when the drogue parachute deployed almost 20 seconds late - just imagine how that 20 seconds must have felt to the crew and controllers - before the Command Module hit the water at a punishing 15g's.
The photographic record of Apollo 12 is, to put it politely, sketchy. The TV camera failed during EVA, the 16mm movie camera got so much dust on it that much of the footage from the LM window is blurred and unwatchable before it finally jammed during lunar lift-off. When it was working, for much of the time, nothing was happening in the picture. The chest-mounted Hasselblad became clogged to the point where the crew couldn't get it on and off their chest-mounts and as a final coup de grace the 16mm pounced from its mount during splashdown and attempted to spontaneously disassemble the lunar module pilot's head! Despite all of this there are many excellent still pictures and the moving picture record that does exist has its great moments. To try and do justice to this most eccentric mission I have attempted to accumulate some of the highlights on the accompanying DVD-Video disc. Some artistic liberties were taken, such as during the landing sequence the data reports the range to the proposed landing site, which was in fact 500 feet from the actual landing site, so during the last few seconds the figures are "fudged" somewhat. I figured people would rather see a big fat "0" at touchdown so it is only an approximation. The rendezvous and docking footage was also an interesting challenge to combine since the TV only kicks in half way through and then for some unfathomable reason drops-out momentarily, while Dick Gordon actually had the presence of mind to change the cartridge and the frame rate in the middle of the rendezvous. As if this wasn't hard enough, just finding the audio was unexpectedly difficult. Regardless, I hope you enjoy it and join me in tipping your hats to Pete, Al and Dick. Go Navy!
"Fed up with the garden variety overviews of NASA's glory days...then the NASA Mission Reports may light your candle." . . . Air & Space - Smithsonian
"This series is highly recommended . . . A bargain at twice the price!" . . . AD ASTRA - National Space Society