Last time we covered Apollo 11 moon mission. Though Apollo 11 always got the limelight and attention, there were many lunar missions that followed it. The next in series was the Apollo 12 which was the second lunar landing mission, had several objectives for the crew to accomplish:
Most of us know about this mission already, so, in this article, we share some unknown facts. But before that, let’s just cover the mission in brief.
Specifications of Apollo 12 Mission
- Crew: Charles Conrad Jr., Alan L. Bean, Richard F. Gordon Jr.
- Launch: Nov. 14, 1969; 11:22 a.m. EST
- Landing: Nov. 24, 1969; 3:58 p.m. EST, Pacific Ocean
- Payload: Yankee Clipper (Command Module-108), Intrepid (Lunar Module-6)
Landing Site Selection
As with Apollo 11, engineering and safety considerations dominated the criteria for landing site selection for Apollo 12:
- Smoothness: Relatively few craters and boulders
- Approach: No large hills, high cliffs, or deep craters that could cause incorrect altitude signals to the lunar module landing radar
- Propellant Requirements: The least expenditure of spacecraft propellants
- Recycle: Effective launch preparation recycling if the Apollo Saturn V countdown is delayed
- Free Return: Within reach of the spacecraft launched on a free-return translunar trajectory
- Slope: Less than 2° slope in the approach path and landing site
Because Apollo 11 landed about 4 miles beyond its planned target, it was deemed important to demonstrate a precision landing capability on Apollo 12. This capability was vital to the success of later, more complex missions. Accordingly, a landing at the Surveyor 3 landing site was planned.
The Apollo 12 lunar module made a precision landing on the lunar surface on November 19, 1969, in Oceanus Procellarum at 3°11’51” south latitude and 23°23’8″ west longitude. The touchdown point was on the northwest rim of Surveyor Crater only 600 feet from the target point, the Surveyor III spacecraft, which landed on April 20, 1967. This precision landing was of great significance to the future exploration program because landing points in the rough terrain of great scientific interest could then be targeted.
The first EVA (Extravehicular Activity) 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.
The most unusual type of rock found at the Apollo 12 landing site is known as KREEP. This is an acronym for rocks that are rich in the elements potassium (denoted as K by chemists), rare earth elements (REE), and phosphorus (P). Only one sample of KREEP was returned by Apollo 12, but many additional samples were collected on Apollo 14 and Apollo 15. KREEP is believed to have formed early in the history of the Moon during the solidification of the Moon’s molten stage, known as the magma ocean.
Official Crew Insignia
The above image is the official crew insignia for Apollo 12. The clipper ship signifies that the crew is all Navy and symbolically relates the era of the clipper ship to the era of space flight. As the clipper ship brought foreign shores closer to the United States and marked the increased utilization of the seas by this nation, spacecraft have opened the way to the other planets and Apollo 12 marks the increased utilization of space based on knowledge gained in earlier missions. The portion of the moon shown is representative of the Ocean of Storms area in which Apollo 12 will land.