Search Johnson

Go

NASA News

Text Size

 
 

July 9, 1999

Ed Campion
Johnson Space Center, Houston
Phone: 281/483-5111

Release: J99-24

Third Man To Walk On Moon Dies In Motorcycle Accident

Charles P. (Pete) Conrad (Capt., USN, Ret.), the third human to walk on the moon, died late Thursday night in a hospital in Ojai, CA of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. He was 69.

Conrad was on a trip to Monterey, CA with his wife, Nancy, and friends when his motorcycle crashed on a turn, according to the California Highway Patrol. Conrad, who lived in Huntington Beach, CA, near Los Angeles, died later at the hospital of internal injuries.

Conrad made history on November 19, 1969, when, as Commander of the Apollo 12 mission, he and Astronaut Alan Bean set their lunar module “Intrepid” down on the moon’s Ocean of Storms to achieve the second of six landings in the Apollo program.

Some five hours later, parodying the historic words of Neil Armstrong four months earlier when Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon, Conrad said, “Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me”. Conrad and Bean conducted two excursions on the moon totaling almost eight hours, in which they set up various experiment packages and retrieved more than 75 pounds of lunar rocks and soil samples. They also recovered a camera and other gear from the nearby Surveyor 3 probe, which had landed on the moon in April 1967.

"Pete was an explorer and a hero of the space frontier,” said George W.S. Abbey, Director of the Johnson Space Center. “From Gemini to Apollo, to his command of the first crew to live aboard an American space station, Pete was a true professional. He combined skill and ability with wit and humor to become one of the courageous pioneers who took humankind beyond the bounds of our planet. We will miss him greatly. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife, Nancy and their family,” Abbey said.

Conrad was selected in the second class of NASA astronauts in 1962 following a distinguished career as a Navy test pilot and instructor. Following his graduation from Princeton University in 1953, Conrad entered the Navy and attended test pilot school at Patuxent River, MD, where he was assigned as a Project Test Pilot.

After being selected as an astronaut, Conrad was assigned to fly on the Gemini 5 mission as the co-pilot to Gordon Cooper. In August, 1965, Cooper and Conrad spent what was then a record eight days in orbit, perfecting techniques for use in later lunar missions and proving the capability of astronauts to spend more than a week in space.

Conrad then commanded the Gemini 11 mission in September 1966, in which he and co-pilot Richard Gordon established the fastest rendezvous and docking in history, linking their Gemini spacecraft with an Agena target vehicle before establishing a new altitude record of almost 850 miles above the Earth.

Conrad was joined by Bean and Gordon on the Apollo 12 mission in November 1969, forming an all-Navy crew for their Command Module “Yankee Clipper” and their Lunar Module “Intrepid”. Conrad and Bean proved that pinpoint landings could be made on the lunar surface and conducted the first significant science operations during their 31 hours on the Ocean of Storms.

Conrad’s fourth and final space flight occurred in 1973 as the Commander of the first crew to live and work on America’s first space station, Skylab. Conrad, Paul Weitz and Joseph Kerwin were launched on a modified Saturn rocket on May 25, 1973, 11 days after the station itself was launched. During Skylab’s climb to orbit, one of its solar arrays was torn off and the other was stuck in a closed position by debris.

Once on orbit, Conrad and his crew mates freed the remaining solar array on Skylab and set up a sunshade to help cool the station for the remainder of its lifetime on orbit. He also conducted a space walk with Weitz late in the mission to retrieve film packages and perform other maintenance work. In all, Conrad and his crew spent 28 days in space, establishing another endurance record at the time.

Conrad left NASA and the Navy in l974 to pursue a career in private industry. Conrad first served as Vice President of American Television and Communications Corporation, responsible for the operation and development of cable television systems. In 1976, Conrad became Vice President of McDonnell Douglas Corporation and later took on the responsibility for all commercial and military sales for the Douglas Aircraft Company.

With an eye toward the commercialization of space and the exploration of Mars, Conrad worked on the development of new spacecraft and space transporation systems with McDonnell Douglas and a California research firm called Universal Space Lines.

Among Conrad’s numerous awards are the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, two NASA Exceptional Service medals, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. He was enshrined in the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1980.

Conrad is survived by his wife, three sons and seven grandchildren. A son preceded him in death.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

 

- end -


text-only version of this release