Pete Conrad

Charles " Pete " Conrad, Jr. ( born June 2, 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, † July 8, 1999 in Ojai, California ) was an American astronaut. He was the third man on the moon.

  • 2.1 bounce because of fuel shortages
  • 2.2 record flights
  • 2.3 Sports Car and Auto Racing
  • 3.1 During his lifetime,
  • 3.2 Posthumously



Conrad grew up in a family that had lost their fortune in the Great Depression. Through the promotion of his uncle he could go to Haverford to a private school. However, hampered by his dyslexia he fell through and had to leave school.

Conrad then went to the Darrow School in New Lebanon, where he could have good success with another learning system. After graduating in 1949, he received not only admission to Princeton University, but also a scholarship from the U.S. Navy.

Since he was 15 years old Conrad took odd jobs at the airfield in Paoli to get hold of Mitfluggelegenheiten in return, and sometimes to take the helm. While still a student, he made himself a pilot's license.


Conrad graduated from Princeton University in 1953 with a degree in aeronautical engineering from, and then joined the U.S. Navy, where he became a pilot. Later he became a trainer, then from 1957 test pilot at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. He served on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger.


Selection and training

As a military test pilot, Conrad came in early 1959, shortlisted for the astronauts of the first NASA Group for the Mercury program. Conrad had to medical tests at the Lovelace Clinic in New Mexico to undergo, was there but very uncooperative and was eliminated from the competition.

When NASA recruited a second group of astronauts in April 1962, Conrad was persuaded by Alan Shepard to apply. This time, Conrad was selected and presented as one of nine new astronauts on September 17, 1962 by NASA to the public. After basic training, Conrad took over as specialty the cockpit layout and system integration for the Gemini spacecraft.

Gemini 5 and 8

The launch of Gemini 5 was made on August 21, 1965, the landing after just eight days on August 29. This long-term record has been improved by the crew of Gemini 7 to nearly 14 days in December 1965.

Shortly after landing, on September 20, 1965 Conrad was nominated as a replacement commander of the Gemini 8 mission, at the first time should take place a coupling in space. The flight took place in March 1966 without Conrad's use was necessary.

Gemini 11

Two days after the landing of Gemini 8, on 19 March 1966 Conrad was nominated as commander of the flight, Gemini 11. As a pilot, he was assigned to Richard Gordon. In the short flights towards the end of the Gemini program Rendezvous, coupling and spacewalks were at the forefront of the mission planning.

The launch of Gemini 11 was on September 18 1966. Conrad and Gordon coupled during the first mission in orbit to a previously launched Agena stage and never let her on the record level of 1374 km. Previously Gordon had carried out an exit of 33 minutes' duration.

Apollo D and Apollo 9

After completion of the mission Gemini 11 Conrad was immediately transferred to the Apollo project. He was next to Grissom, McDivitt, Schirra, Borman, Stafford and one of the six astronauts who had been nominated as commander of the first Apollo missions. Conrad was from December 1966, intended as a replacement commander for the mission E, which should test the Apollo lunar module in a high earth orbit. After the disaster of Apollo 1 January 1967, all plans were put on hold.

In November 1967, a new plan was published, the Conrad as a substitute commander of the second manned Apollo flight, the Mission D ( planned as Apollo 8 ) foresaw. The members of his team were Richard Gordon, with whom he had already flown together in Gemini 11, and Alan Bean, for which he had himself personally. After then usual rule that a replacement team three flights later, the home team was formed, Conrad had thus to be a good chance, commander of the mission G ( planned as Apollo 11), in which the first manned lunar landing should be performed. Conrad was well on the way to becoming the first man on the moon.

However, a moon flight without lander missions between the C and D was pushed through a re-planning of NASA in the summer of 1968. This Apollo 8 flight test of the lunar module was numbered in orbit with Apollo 9. The flight took place in March 1969, Conrad was not used and served as Capcom.

Apollo 12

As expected, Conrad, Gordon and Bean nominated in April 1969 as the crew of Apollo 12. After Apollo 10, the dress rehearsal was a success, the first manned lunar landing in the moon's orbit, and Apollo 11, should be carried out with this mission a precise landing and more scientific experiments. The launch of Apollo 12 took place on 14 November 1969. During launch two lightning slammed into the Saturn rocket, which turned out different systems, but there was no damage.

On November 19, Conrad and Bean sat on the lunar module Intrepid in the Ocean of Storms. When Conrad stepped onto the lunar surface, he exulted:

" Whoopee! Man, did june have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me. "

" Oops! Man, that was maybe for Neil a small but a great one for me. "

This played on the on the set of Neil Armstrong "It's one small step for man ... " and his own small body size. As Conrad told later, it was a bet with the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who was convinced that NASA astronauts dictated what they had to say. Conrad gave $ 500, however, that he could say what he wanted.

Conrad and Bean set on the moon on the first experimental package ALSEP, which should spark scientific data back to Earth after their return. After a rest of 12 hours in the lunar module Conrad and Bean went to the lunar probe Surveyor 3, from which they had landed just 160 meters away. They assembled from several parts so that they could be studied on Earth.

After a total of 31 hours on the moon Conrad and Bean start the mother ship and ended up with Gordon on November 24, back on Earth.


After completion of the mission Apollo 12 Conrad worked on the first U.S. space station Skylab. On January 19, 1972, he was commissioned by NASA known as the commander of the first of three crews.

When starting on 14 May 1973 Skylab was, however, so badly damaged that it was not clear whether the planned mission of four weeks duration could take place. The planned for the next day start the team with the mission name Skylab 2 was postponed and took place on May 25. Together with the pilot Paul Weitz and Joseph Kerwin the science astronauts Conrad approached the Apollo spacecraft to the space station to inspect the damage. A solar array had jammed, the other was completely demolished at the start.

In a risky maneuver Conrad, Kerwin and Weitz tried to solve the jammed solar array from the open hatch of Apollo - hand, but that failed. The astronauts took the space station still in operation. On June 7, Conrad and Kerwin tried again in a spacewalk to solve the carrier, which eventually succeeded with great effort, making Skylab could also be used long term. Another exit undertook Conrad on June 19, along with Weitz.

After landing at June 22, 1973 Conrad had ( as before Jim Lovell and John Young) reached the record level of four space flights. He also held now with 49 days the record for the longest total duration in space and along with Weitz and Kerwin with 28 days to for the longest space flight.

In its Skylab flight Conrad was particularly proud. It was largely thanks to the use of the three astronauts that the first American space station was put into operation and all three planned missions were carried out in full length.

According to the NASA

During his time at NASA, between the moon flight and preparing for Skylab, Conrad had worked as a consultant for Butler Aviation.

In December 1973, Conrad retired from the Navy and from NASA. Then Conrad worked at the company American Television and Communications Corporation (ATC ) in Denver. He was responsible for the operation and expansion of cable television networks. In parallel, he also advised the company Martin Marietta Corporation in the design of the proposed Space Telescope LST (Large Space Telescope ).

On March 1, 1976 Conrad joined McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, where he rose in the marketing sector. In 1990, Conrad moved into the space units of McDonnell Douglas Space Company. There he worked on the development of a single-stage space shuttle ( SSTO, single stage to orbit ) and its prototype Delta Clipper.

On March 31, 1996 Conrad left at McDonnel Douglas, moved to California and took care of his own company Universal Space Lines, which he had founded the year before. His goal was to make space flight affordable for individuals.


On 8 July 1999, Conrad took a motorcycle trip with his wife and friends. In the near Ojai in California, he came to a slight curve on the road. First one held his injuries for not too severe, but in the hospital in Ojai, he had increasingly declined shortness of breath and his blood pressure. He was operated on immediately, but his condition continued to deteriorate, and about five hours after the accident, he died of internal bleeding. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with military honors. On the grave stone Conrad is honored with the designation " An Original ".


Take-off due to lack of fuel

On 10 May 1972, and during the preparation for the Skylab mission, Conrad was a Northrop T-38 on the return flight from Dover (Delaware ), where he had visited the space suit manufacturer ILC Industries. About the Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia he flew to Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. During the landing approach, he was diverted due to bad weather to nearby William P. Hobby Airport. The local landing in the storm, he broke off after an on-board generator had failed, which caused the loss of cockpit lighting and navigation systems. Conrad broke the landing approach at 800 ft ( 240 m) height decreases and the generator then took the operation again.

Conrad could be redirect to Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, where he could end up in visual flight. When it turned out that he did not have enough fuel on board to reach Randolph, he was diverted to Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin (Texas ). Just as he reached Bergstrom, walked out of the plane of the fuel. Conrad catapulted in 3,700 ft ( 1,100 m) level with the ejection seat from the plane and landed by parachute just 100 meters from the airport building. His plane crashed in an uninhabited area.

A committee under the chairmanship of the astronaut Stuart Roosa came after 14 months to the conclusion that a board on electric equipment was apparently not adequately protected against moisture and had led to the failure of the generator. The Committee recommended design changes to prevent the ingress of water.

Record flights

On August 30, 1984 Conrad set two world records for helicopters to climb in the weight category of 500 to 1000 kg. With a MDD Hughes 530 F he reached the height of 3000 m in 3:15 minutes and 6000 meters in 6:34 minutes.

Another record-breaking flight took Conrad in the class of land planes 6000-9000 kg Takeoff weight. Together with Mark Calkins, Paul Thayer and Daniel Miller, he flew from the 12th to the 14th February 1996 a Learjet around the world and reached there at an average speed of 752 km / h

Sports cars and motor racing

Conrad was a lover of fast cars and drove even car racing. An important contribution to safety, he made as he gave the racers Bill Simpson pointed mid-1960s to the refractory material Nomex, which was manufactured by DuPont of aramid fibers. Simpson produced from fire protective clothing was worn in 1967 by almost all drivers of the Indianapolis 500.

Like many other astronauts Conrad had the opportunity to lease a Chevrolet Corvette for the symbolic price of $ 1 per year. During preparations for the mission Apollo 12 Conrad, Gordon and Bean drove Corvettes identical with each other matching design. Conrad's license plate was " CDR XII ", according to his capacity as commander of Apollo 12

Conrad came forward with Stephen Behr and John Buffum in a Porsche 914 /6 for the 12 - hour race at Sebring on March 20, 1971, but could not qualify.


During his lifetime,

Pete Conrad has received numerous awards, including

  • The Congressional Space Medal of Honor ( October 1978 as the third astronaut)
  • Twice the NASA Exceptional Service Medal
  • Twice the NASA Distinguished Service Medal
  • Twice the Navy Distinguished Service Medal
  • The Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal of the FAI (1970 )
  • The FAI Gold Medal ( 1974)
  • Inclusion in the National Aviation Hall of Fame (1980, as the fourth astronaut)


In the Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA has planted a tree for each dead astronauts, which are illuminated at Christmas with lights. The tree, which was dedicated to Pete Conrad, in contrast to the other not irradiated with white light, but in red to emphasize the colorful character of Conrad.

"When you can not be good, be colorful. "

"If you can not already be good, was at least colorful. "

The Foundation X Prize Foundation awards since 2007 an annual prize named Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award. The award will be groups of students who have innovative ideas for the space industry.


Conrad married in June 1953 and had four sons with his wife. The marriage ended in divorce in 1988, Conrad later married a second time.