Apollo XII Mission - Page 4 of 8
At 7,000 feet, Intrepid nosed over into a near-upright position, and Conrad could see the lunar surface for the first time. The principal landmark identifying his landing point was a pattern of craters the astronauts called "Snowman;" Surveyor III lay halfway up the eastern wall of the crater that was the Snowman's torso. Intrepid was targeted for the center of the crater. As soon as he could see out the window, Conrad exclaimed, "Hey, there it is! There it is! Son of a gun! Right down the middle of the road!" Then, as Bean called out altitude, velocity and quantity of fuel remaining, Conrad maneuvered the craft with his hand controller to pick a smooth spot to land on. The engine exhaust began kicking up dust about a hundred feet (30 meters) above the surface, and by the time Intrepid reached 50 feet (15 meters), the cloud obscured the surface completely. At 1:54:36 a.m. EST on November 19th, Pete Conrad made a blind landing, exactly where, he could not tell, but certainly close to the intended spot. Had there been windows in the back of the lunar module, Conrad could have spotted the Surveyor as soon as the dust settled, 535 feet (163 meters) away. He had made a blind, pinpoint landing.

Five and half hours after landing, Conrad squeezed out the hatch, and then clambered down the ladder to the bottom rung. Conrad knew that people would not remember what was said by the third man to set foot on the moon, but he also knew what he was going to say because he had a bet to win. An Italian journalist he knew was convinced that NASA had told Neil Armstrong what to say, and Conrad could not convince her otherwise. As proof this was not so, Conrad had written down ahead of time what he was going to say and bet her $500 he would say it. As he stepped off onto the landing pad, Conrad remarked the words he had written in the summer of 1969, "Whoopee! Man, that [step] may have been a small one for Neil, but it's a long one for me." According to Conrad, he was never able to collect on the bet. One of the first things he noticed was that he was going to get extremely dirty: the surface dust was finer and deeper than he had expected.

After Conrad had collected the contingency sample Bean joined him on the surface, bringing the television camera with him. A few minutes later, Houston reported that the camera was not working. Cursory attempts at troubleshooting (including hitting it with a hammer) were fruitless, and television coverage for the mission - desirable but not essential - had to be written off. Later examination determined that the image-tube target in the camera had been damaged by exposure to intense light. Apparently Bean had inadvertently pointed the camera at the sun or a reflection off the lunar module while helping Conrad set up a directional antenna.

The primary objective of their first excursion was to deploy the scientific experiments. On the cuff of their left arm was a checklist for them to follow during their EVA's on the moon. However, the backup crew of Dave Scott and Jim Irwin had arranged for a few "additions." There, on the pages of the checklist, were cartoons of Conrad and Bean as Snoopy, the beagle from the comic strip "Peanuts." But what really made them laugh were the Playboy pinups annotated with proper geological terminology: "Don't forget: Describe the protuberance..."

Conrad and Bean unloaded the scientific package easily, picked a spot 130 meters (425 feet) northwest of the Lander, and laid out the instruments without any serious difficulty. After nearly four hours on the surface, the astronauts returned to the lunar module, dusted each other off as best they could without a brush or vacuum cleaner, and climbed back inside.

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