A product of NASA’s second group of astronauts known as the ‘New Nine’, Charles ‘Peter’ Conrad, Jr. first got his start as an astronaut in September of 1962. Well regarded for his skills as a pilot, it was not long before Conrad was assigned a Gemini mission as pilot of Gemini 5, alongside Commander Gordon Cooper. Interestingly enough, the support crew included two familiar names - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. As part of the Gemini 5 team, Conrad and Cooper set an eight-day space endurance record surpassing the then-current Russian record of five days.
In the four years following this spaceflight, Conrad would see himself selected as not only Commander of Gemini 11, but also Commander of Apollo 12 alongside Command Module Pilot, Dick Gordon, and Lunar Module Pilot, Alan Bean. As many have noted, the launch was arguably the most distressing of the Apollo program as both power and guidance in the command module were temporarily knocked out following a series of lightning strikes shortly after liftoff.
There have been many memorable sound bites from astronauts stepping down onto the lunar surface for the very first time, however few top that of Commander Pete Conrad when he became the 3rd person to walk on the Moon. In a $500 bet made with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci to prove that NASA did not script astronaut comments, Conrad spoke the words included on this post’s accompanying image.
Conrad’s last mission was as commander of Skylab 2 in 1973, the first crew to board the Skylab space station. Sadly, shortly after his 69th birthday and 26 years after his retirement from NASA, he would pass away from injuries sustained in a motorcycling accident.
Today, we celebrate what would have been Pete Conrad’s 84th birthday.
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