Why Apollo 12 Was Amazing

Apollo 11 was pretty much one of the most seminal moments in all of human history, so it’s not likely to be forgotten. And everyone knows about Apollo 13. But what about the mission sandwiched in between? On one level, Apollo 12 was extremely important: it showed that our ability to land humans on the Moon was not exceptional. Rather, we could repeat this feat with regularity, doing it twice in less than a single year. But there’s more to that mission. Not many people know the details of Apollo 12. But, simply put, Apollo 12 was awesome.

Here are a few reasons why Apollo 12 was so amazing. First, this mission didn’t just land on the moon. It landed several hundred meters from Surveyor 3, an unmanned probe that landed on the moon in 1967, two years earlier. And this meant that Surveyor 3 was within walking distance from the Apollo 12 landing site! Pete Conrad and Alan Bean actually visited this probe that had been sitting unchanged for years. The camera, retrieved from Surveyor, was initially thought to even contain bacteria that had been dormant for years on the moon, but still alive. However, more recently, this intriguing possibility has encountered some resistance.

But Apollo 12 gets even better. Think the first words of Apollo on the moon had a bit too much gravitas? Then you’ll love what Pete Conrad said. In reference to his height as compared to Neil Armstrong’s, upon jumping down to the landing pad, Conrad uttered the less famous words: “Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.” And when he set foot on the lunar surface, he said: “Oooh, is that soft and queasy.” Now that feels a bit more properly improvised.

And let’s not forget that Apollo 12 also was the mission of the Moon Museum and playboy centerfolds in the lunar checklists.

But Apollo 12, even upon splashdown, wasn’t done being interesting. In 2002, an amateur astronomer discovered an asteroid. While this is a normal occurrence, he was soon astonished to find that it wasn’t orbiting the sun, like a normal asteroid, but the Earth! This would mean the discovery of a second natural moon of Earth, the only one after our regular moon. Unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived. The actual identity of the minor planet? The third stage of the Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo 12.

While each lunar mission had something special (we can’t forget Alan Shepard’s lunar golf during Apollo 14), Apollo 12 is definitely something to remember.

9 Responses to “Why Apollo 12 Was Amazing”

  1. DW April 11, 2011 at 10:07 am Permalink

    How about this:

    ALL trips to the moon were amazing.

  2. Samuel Arbesman April 11, 2011 at 10:09 am Permalink


  3. Josh Elberg April 11, 2011 at 11:58 am Permalink

    You forgot that the rocket was hit with 2 bolts of lightning during the launch, lost the entire electrical platform and was able to recover before they had to abort the mission because one controller, John Aaron, remembered that this had happened once during a simulation and knew exactly how to reset the command module

  4. Samuel Arbesman April 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm Permalink

    Oh yeah! Apollo 12 just keeps on getting better.

  5. Rick Thomas April 14, 2011 at 9:01 pm Permalink

    There was one big downer. Bean pointed the color camera at the sun and ruined it. If I remember correctly it happened because he was giddy and careless.

  6. evgen April 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm Permalink

    Josh, the save on the takeoff was not just due to John Aaron (the “steely-eyed missle-man”) knowing that the voltage was screwed up and how to fix it, but also that Alan Bean actually knew how to set the SCE to aux when no on else in control or in the cabin knew where the switch was due to a previous training scenario.

  7. Greg April 15, 2011 at 3:19 am Permalink

    I’ve got to call bullshit:
    “it wasn’t orbiting the sun, like a normal asteroid, but the Earth!”
    Actually was orbiting the sun, which is why J002E3 appeared in 2002 but won’t likely be visible again until 2032.


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