Apollo XII Mission - Page 7 of 8
During the hour and a half it would take for Intrepid to rendezvous, Commander Pete Conrad asked Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean if he would like to take a minute and fly Intrepid. The fact was that even though Bean was called the "lunar module pilot," all the flying was done by the commander. While other commanders may not have thought of or allowed it, Conrad had the compassion to share a flying experience that most astronauts would never know. When Alan Bean questioned the fact that Mission Control might find out, it became apparent that Conrad had this all planned out; they were on the backside of the moon and no one would know. So for a brief few minutes, on the backside of the moon, Alan Bean became a true lunar module pilot thanks to his good friend, Pete Conrad.

Back in lunar orbit, the dust the lunar explorers had brought in with them began to float, thick enough to be visible in the cabin. After the two spacecraft had docked, they attempted to vacuum up the dust, with little success. When command module pilot Dick Gordon opened the tunnel to the LM, he saw two dim figures floating in a cloud of dust. He refused to allow them back in to mess up his "nice clean spacecraft," possibly because it might cause electrical problems or possibly to harass his friends that he was so happy to see. So he made Conrad and Bean remove and package their filthy suits, hoping to minimize contamination of the command module.

In spite of their efforts, considerable dust clung to everything they brought back and remained suspended in the atmosphere; the environmental control system seemed not to filter it out as completely as had been expected. With little time left before they had to jettison the lunar module, Conrad and Bean strapped themselves into their command module seats the same way they had entered the world...naked.

Intrepid, now a useless hulk, still had one more contribution to make to the scientific objectives of the mission. For the benefit of seismologists wanting to calibrate the instrument that Conrad and Bean had just left on the moon, Mission Control now burned the empty spacecraft's remaining fuel to take it out of orbit. At a speed of 1.67 kilometers per second (3,735 miles per hour) the ascent stage plowed into the moon 76 kilometers (47 miles) east-southeast of the instrument package, producing a bizarre response: the seismometer recorded vibrations that persisted almost undiminished for nearly an hour. It was so completely unlike anything ever seen on earth that seismologists had no immediate explanation. One scientist compared the result to striking a church bell and hearing the reverberations for 30 minutes.

Yankee Clipper stayed in lunar orbit for 11 more revolutions, finishing up photography and landmark tracking, looking at sites being considered for Apollo 14 and 15. Then the crew boosted their spacecraft out of lunar orbit and settled in for the three-day voyage home.

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