Lunar and Planetary Institute






Apollo 12 Mission

Overview | Landing Site | Surface Operations | Photography | Experiments | Samples

Surface Operations Overview

Video Clip of Surface ActivitiesVideo Clip of Surface Activities (2.6MB in Quicktime format)

The Apollo 12 mission provided the first opportunity to study the Moon extensively within a radius of 0.5 kilometers of the landing site. Lunar surface activities were performed essentially as planned within the allotted time periods. Three hours after landing, the crew began preparations for egress and the first traverse of the lunar surface. During the two extravehicular activity periods, a total duration of 7.5 hours, the astronauts were given very specific tasks to complete. Among these were to collect lunar samples, to deploy several experiments, and to examine and photograph the lunar surface. The following map of the landing area shows where these activities took place.

Apollo 12 Traverse Map

Apollo 12 Traverse Map

First Extravehicular Activity | Second Extravehicular Activity

First Extravehicular Activity

First Extravehicular Activity The first EVA began at 6:32 a.m. EST on November 19, 1969. A color television camera mounted on the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly on the Lunar Module descent stage provided live television coverage of the descent of both astronauts to the lunar surface. During this EVA, the crew collected samples in the vicinity of the lunar module, including a core-tube sample of subsurface material, erected the Solar Wind Composition foil collector, and deployed the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package. The EVA ended at 10:28 a.m. EST after 3 hours and 56 minutes.
The Apollo 12 Lunar Module
Apollo 12 Lunar Module Astronaut Alan L. Bean, lunar module pilot for the Apollo 12 mission, works at the Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly on the Apollo 12 LM during the mission's first extravehicular activity on November 19, 1969.

Collecting the Contingency Sample

The contingency sample was taken on and near the southeast rim of a 6-meter-diameter crater approximately 15 meters northwest of the Lunar Module. Six scoops were taken, amounting to about 1.9 kilograms of material. The contingency sample was collected to ensure that some material from this landing site would be returned to Earth in the event that an emergency required a rapid, unscheduled end to the EVA.

Activities at the Lunar Module Site

Deployment of the S-Band AntennaThe erectable S-band antenna was easy to deploy on its tripod but difficult to align. Although one-man deployment was satisfactory, it took both astronauts to align the antenna.

 

Deployment of the Televison Camera

Deployment of the Televison CameraThe TV camera was removed from the LM for deployment on the surface. However, during the transfer, the camera was accidentally pointed at the Sun or the Sun's reflection on the descent stage and the vision tube apparently burned out. This ended the TV coverage of the lunar surface activities.

 

Placing the Flag on the Lunar Surface

Placing the Flag on the Lunar SurfaceThe TV camera was removed from the LM for deployment on the surface. However, during the transfer, the camera was accidentally pointed at the Sun or the Sun's reflection on the descent stage and the vision tube apparently burned out. This ended the TV coverage of the lunar surface activities.


Deployment of the Solar Wind Composition Experiment

Placing the Solar Wind Composition ExperimentThe Sun continually emits a flux of electrically charged particles into space. This is termed the solar wind. The Earth's magnetic field prevents these charged particles from reaching the Earth's surface, although in the Earth's polar regions, these particles can reach the upper part of the atmosphere, causing auroras. The Moon is outside the Earth's magnetic field for most of each month and has a negligible atmosphere, allowing solar wind particles to reach the Moon's surface. Two different experiments, the Solar Wind Composition Experiment and the Solar Wind Spectrometer, were deployed on the Moon to study the solar wind.

The Solar Wind Composition Experiment was performed on Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, and 16. It consisted of an aluminum foil sheet, 1.4 meters by 0.3 meters, that was deployed on a pole facing the Sun. On Apollo 16, a platinum sheet was also used. This foil was exposed to the Sun for periods ranging from 77 minutes on Apollo 11 to 45 hours on Apollo 16, allowing solar wind particles to embed themselves into the foil. The foil was then returned to Earth for laboratory analysis. This allowed the chemical composition of the embedded solar wind to be determined more accurately than would be possible if the measurement were made using remotely controlled instruments on the Moon, but limited the periods at which observations could be made. The isotopes of the light noble gases were measured, including helium-3, helium-4, neon-20, neon-21, neon-22, and argon-36. Some variation in the composition of the solar wind was observed in the measurements from the different missions. These variations were correlated with variations in the intensity of the solar wind as determined from magnetic field measurements.

The Solar Wind Composition experiment on Apollo 12 was the same as the experiment flown on Apollo 11. The experiment was deployed on the lunar surface and was exposed to the solar wind for 18 hours and 42 minutes. Afterward, the foil was removed and placed in a Teflon bag and returned to Earth for analysis.

Deployment of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package

The experiments in the Apollo 12 ALSEP included a cold cathode gauge, a lunar surface magnetometer, a passive seismometer, a solar wind spectrometer, a dust detector, and a suprathermal ion detector. The experiments were deployed at a distance of about 425 feet from the LM. Finding a suitable deployment site was much easier than on the Apollo 11 mission. Several minor problems arose during the deployment of the ALSEP, but they were eventually resolved.

Unloading the ALSEP Unloading the ALSEP
In this photograph, the astronauts are shown removing the ALSEP from their stowage areas on the descent stage of the LM. The ALSEP is in two subpackages that are folded up or collapsed for more compact storage.
   
Transporting the ALSEP Transporting the ALSEP
Astronaut Alan L. Bean, lunar module pilot, carries the two subpackages of the ALSEP. The subpackages have been left in their collapsed form for easier handling.
   
Placing the ALSEP Setting up the ALSEP
Commander Charles Conrad Jr. aligns the antenna on the central station for the ALSEP. The ALSEP's Lunar Surface Magnetometer is in the foreground. In the center background near Conrad are other ALSEP components.

Additional Sampling

The selected sample was collected in an area northwest of the LM in the vicinity of Middle Cresent Crater. Samples were taken in the vicinity of the ALSEP and on and near two mounds approximately 120 and 160 meters northwest of the LM. One core tube was also driven near the LM. In all, about 14.8 kilograms of material was collected in about 1.25 hours.

Other EVA Activities

In addition to the activities listed above, the astronauts took many photographs, including some panoramic sequences. Also, at the request of geologists on Earth, the crew made a traverse to a 300-meter-diameter crater after completing the ALSEP deployment.

Second Extravehicular Activity

Second Extravehicular Activity The second extravehicular activity period began on November 19 at 10:54 p.m. EST. The major activity of this EVA was the geology traverse, which covered a distance of approximately 4300 feet. The EVA lasted 3 hours and 50 minutes, ending at 2:44 a.m. EST on November 20.

The Geologic Traverse

The contingency sample was taken on and near the southeast rim of a 6-meter-diameter crater approximately 15 meters northwest of the Lunar Module. Six scoops were taken, amounting to about 1.9 kilograms of material. The contingency sample was collected to ensure that some material from this landing site would be returned to Earth in the event that an emergency required a rapid, unscheduled end to the EVA.

The documented sampling was performed during this traverse and consisted of about 17.6 kilograms of rocks, soil, and core samples. The traverse followed a planned course and samples were collected primarily from the crater rims.

Traverse Map

    Head Crater
    Samples were taken at four locations around the rim of Head Crater: one on the north-northeast side, two on the north side, and one more on the north-northwest side of the rim. Samples taken at this site included five rocks and two soil samples.

    Bench Crater
    This crater was about 280 meters southwest of the LM. Samples were taken at three locations along the northwest rim. A total of three soil samples and six rock samples were collected.

    Sharp Crater
    At this site, a lunar environment sample and a gas analysis sample were taken. These samples were sealed in special containers separate from the other lunar samples. A core tube sample was also obtained. Sharp Crater was about 400 meters southwest of the lunar module (LM).

    Halo Crater
    A double core tube sample was taken on the rim of a 10-meter-diameter crater south of Halo Crater. Additional samples were taken at three other locations within 50 meters of this crater.

    Surveyor Crater
    A total of 10 rocks and two soil samples were collected on or near the rim of this crater. Four sample sites were located at the Surveyor III lander itself. One location was just outside the southernmost point on the rim and another was at Block Crater just inside the northeast rim of the crater.

Visit to Surveyor III Site

Picture of Surveyor III spacecraftThe Surveyor III spacecraft was launched in April 1967 and was exposed on the lunar surface for 31 months before the Apollo 12 mission. The Apollo 12 Lunar Module landed approximately 160 meters from the Surveyor 3 spacecraft. The crew retrieved several pieces of the Surveyor, including the TV camera and associated electrical cables, the sample scoop, and two pieces of aluminum tubing. These items were returned to Earth and analyzed to determine how they were affected by exposure to the lunar environment.

A number of microscopic craters were observed on the returned pieces. Some were probably the result of micrometeorite bombardment of the Moon. Many of these craters were on the side of the Surveyor facing the Lunar Module. It is likely that these are the result of a sand-blasting effect from dust that was blown away from the Apollo landing site by rocket exhaust. Some darkening of painted surfaces due to the effects of solar radiation was also observed. Several nuts, bolts, and screws were disassembled after being returned to Earth, and none were found to have become cold-welded by their exposure to space.

A particularly important aspect of the Surveyor 3 analysis was the search for living material on the spacecraft. Surveyor was not sterilized prior to launch, and scientists wanted to know if terrestrial microorganisms had survived for two and a half years in space. One research group found a small amount of the bacteria Streptococcus mitis in a piece of foam from inside the TV camera. They believed that these bacteria had survived in this location since before launch. They only found evidence for living material in one of 33 samples from various parts of Surveyor that they cultured. Another research group found no evidence of life inside a section of electrical cable. Some people associated with the curation of the Surveyor 3 materials have suggested that the one positive detection of life may be the result of accidental contamination of the material after it was returned to Earth.

Other EVA Activities

Apollo Lunar Surface Close-up Camera Photography Apollo Lunar Surface Close-up Camera Photography
This activity suffered somewhat due to lack of time at the end of the second EVA. The areas photographed were mostly around the LM. The camera performed satisfactorily, except that the film counter did not work. A total of 15 stereoscopic photo pairs of excellent quality were taken.
   
A close-up view of a replica of the plaque the Apollo 12 astronauts left on the Moon in commemoration of their flight End of the Apollo 12 Mission
A close-up view of a replica of the plaque the Apollo 12 astronauts left on the Moon in commemoration of their flight. The plaque was attached to the ladder on the landing gear strut on the descent stage of the Apollo 12 LM.