Apollo 12 Mission Overview
Apollo 12 was launched on November 14, 1969. Despite being struck by lightning twice during the first minute of flight, it went on to perform the second successful human landing on the Moon. Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean landed the Lunar Module Intrepid in the Ocean of Storms, a mere 535 feet from the robotic Surveyor 3 lander. This demonstration of precision landing paved the way for future Apollo missions in more difficult but scientifically valuable locations.
Conrad and Bean were on the Moon for 31.6 hours and performed two extra-vehicular activities (EVAs, or “moonwalks”) totaling 7 hours and 27 minutes. Much of the first EVA was spent deploying a set of experiments, some of which continued to radio data back to Earth until September 1977. Among these was a seismometer, which detected thousands of moonquakes and helped to determine the structure of the Moon’s interior. Other instruments measured the solar wind and the Moon’s tenuous atmosphere. On the second EVA, the crew explored the landing site out to a distance of 1300 feet from the lunar module. This included a stop at Surveyor 3, where they collected several pieces of the spacecraft for return to Earth to assess the effects that 2 ½ years of exposure on the lunar surface had on Surveyor. During the two EVAs combined, Conrad and Bean collected 75 pounds of lunar samples. These rocks are essentially all basalt, a common type of volcanic rock, and are indeed different in composition (less titanium) and younger (3.1-3.3 billion years) than the 3.6-3.9 billion year old Apollo 11 samples.
During the moon landing, Command Module Pilot Richard Gordon remained in lunar orbit in the Command Module, Yankee Clipper. Gordon’s photography proved crucial in certifying the safety of the Apollo 14 landing site. Altogether, Apollo 12 spent 3.7 days in lunar orbit, circling the Moon 45 times. The crew returned safely to Earth on November 24, 1969 after a flight of 10 days and 4 hours.