|Three and a half hours into the flight, command module pilot Dick Gordon
turned command module, Yankee Clipper, around and extracted the lunar module,
Intrepid, from its stowage site atop the third stage. The only midcourse
correction was significant. All three previous Apollo flights to the moon were
along a trajectory called a "free return" that would allow the spacecraft to
loop the moon and returning to earth if it failed to attain lunar orbit.
However, to reach the desired landing site, Apollo 12 had to enter a hybrid
trajectory that would not allow free return.|
Arriving at the moon 83 1/2 hours after liftoff, Conrad fired the main propulsion engine for almost six minutes to go into an elliptical lunar orbit. Five hours later, a second burn put the spacecraft into a circular orbit at 60 nautical miles (111 kilometers) altitude, where Yankee Clipper would stay until it was time to return to earth. The spacecraft passed over and photographed Apollo 13's landing area in the Fra Mauro formation, and on the tenth revolution, Conrad notified Capcom Gerald Carr that "You can tell good Captain Shaky [Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13] that he can relax. We've got his pictures."
After Conrad and Bean entered and activated the lunar module, command module pilot Dick Gordon turned the spacecraft so that the long axis of the command and service module was perpendicular to the flight path with the lunar module outward from the moon. He retracted the docking latches, and fired his attitude-control thrusters to move Yankee Clipper away from Intrepid.
On the backside of the moon in the 13th revolution, the computer triggered a 29-second firing of the descent engine, bringing the low point of Intrepid's orbit to 8.1 nautical miles (15 kilometers). As the lander passed north of Mare Nectaris, Conrad turned it on its back with the descent engine pointed along the flight path and switched the engine on to begin the final approach.
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