LPD redesignations

Figure 10.1

Conrad's use of LPD redesignations during the Apollo 12 landing. (Redrawn by the author from Floyd V. Bennett, ''Apollo Experience Report: Mission Planning for Lunar Module Descent and Ascent,'' 340.)

The dust began at nearly two hundred feet. Conrad lost his visual reference. He could see how fast he was moving by looking at the ground, ''but I couldn't tell what was underneath me. I knew I was in a generally good area and I was just going to have to bite the bullet and land, because I couldn't tell whether there was a crater down there or not.''11

Conrad began to focus inside the LM, on instruments. But he kept glancing out the window. He thought that the ''crosspointers,'' the needles that indicated lateral velocity, were not working. Actually, they were working, but he was nearly stopped, moving so slowly that the needles had essentially no deflection. So Conrad tried to sense his velocity by looking out the window. If he'd trusted the needles, Conrad later said, ''I probably would never have looked at the ground in the last 50 or 100 feet.''12 As they drew nearer the surface, the dust cloud overwhelmed the view.

The LM descended three and then two feet per second. The probes hit the moon. ''Contact light.'' Conrad killed the engine and the LM dropped the last few feet.

Then Conrad vented his own relief valve: ''Okay. Man, oh man, Houston. I'll tell you. I think we're in a place that's a lot dustier than Neil's. It's a good thing we had a simulator, because that was an IFR landing.'' IFR stands for ''instrument flight rules'' in aviation, when the pilot cannot see due to clouds or fog. ''It's a good thing we leveled off high and came down, because I sure couldn't see what was underneath us once I

got into that dust____That stuff was going to the horizon.''

Bean hailed Conrad. ''It's a real pleasure to ride with a number 1 aviator.'' Pride still tied them to the piloting profession.

When Conrad looked around, he later recalled, ''it turned out there were more craters there than we realized, either because we didn't look before the dust started or because the dust obscured them.''13 Fortunately, they did not land in an unseen crater.

Conrad had been in manual control for one minute and fifty seconds, about 30 percent less time than Armstrong had. Sixty seconds had remained before the land-or-abort decision point—twice the time that remained on the Apollo 11 mission.14

Despite the confusion, they'd made a good shot. Conrad and Bean were able to walk over and take samples from the craft, to see how its materials had survived for a few years under the harsh lunar conditions.

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