Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Apollo 12 Uncensored

From Wikipedia:
Apollo 12 was the sixth manned flight in the United States Apollo program and the second to land on the Moon (an H type mission). It was launched on November 14, 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, four months after Apollo 11. Mission commander Charles "Pete" Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean performed just over one day and seven hours of lunar surface activity while Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon remained in lunar orbit.
The landing site for the mission was located in the southeastern portion of the Ocean of Storms. Unlike the first landing on Apollo 11, Conrad and Bean achieved a precise landing at their expected location, the site of the Surveyor 3 unmanned probe, which had landed on April 20, 1967. They carried the first color television camera to the lunar surface on an Apollo flight, but transmission was lost after Bean accidentally destroyed the camera by pointing it at the Sun. On one of two moonwalks, they visited the Surveyor, and removed some parts for return to Earth. The mission ended on November 24 with a successful splashdown.

What makes this documentary special, in a nice, low-key way, is the fact that they've let the men tell their own story, without a narrator, and their voices and personalities shine through. I was almost 12 years old when Apollo 12 flew, into space the way some kids are into dinosaurs, and Apoolo 12, the second mission to the surface of the moon, always seemed special to me. These men seemed especially likable. Forty years later, it's nice to have my original impression confirmed, in so many words, right in the the beginning, when a writer talked about how much fun these guys had, and that they had been friends even before coming to the space program.

Oh, but here's the interesting thing about that.  Seconds into the mission, during the liftoff of the mammoth Saturn motherfucking Five rocket, right when the power of an A Bomb was being unleashed right under their asses, when the roar is so loud the spacecraft was struck by lighting, causing massive systems shutdown.  The lights   Try to imagine what that must have been like, and then watch these badass testpilot mother laughing about this, because this was their idea of fun. These guys are real honest to God heroes, Authentic American Badasses, bouncing and laughing in the lunar gravity like kids on a trampoline, and as old men 40 years later, laughing about the times they faced down death.


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