Apollo 12 astronaut Richard Gordon, who circled moon, dies

November 7, 2017 by Seth Borenstein
This undated photo made available by NASA shows astronaut Richard Gordon Jr. Gordon, one of a dozen men who flew around the moon but didn't land there, has died, NASA announced Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. He was 88. (NASA via AP)

Former Apollo 12 astronaut Richard Gordon, one of a dozen men who flew around the moon but didn't land there, has died, NASA said. He was 88.

Richard "Dick" F. Gordon Jr. was a test pilot chosen in NASA's third group of astronauts in 1963. He flew on Gemini 11 in 1966, walking in space twice. During Apollo 12 in November 1969, Gordon circled the moon in the command module Yankee Clipper while Alan Bean and Charles Conrad landed and walked on the lunar surface.

Gordon died Monday at his home in California, according to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

"Dick will be fondly remembered as one of our nation's boldest flyers, a man who added to our own nation's capabilities by challenging his own. He will be missed," acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement Tuesday.

Born in Seattle, a Navy captain and a chemist, Gordon was such a steely professional that after a difficult first spacewalk, he fell asleep during a break in his second spacewalk. He downplayed Apollo 12 being hit by lightning during launch.

In a 1997 NASA oral history, Gordon said people would often ask if he felt alone while his two partners walked on the moon. "I said, 'Hell no, if you knew those guys, you'd be happy to be alone'."

Gordon described the Apollo 12 mission, the second moon landing, as full of antics and dust.

When Conrad and Bean returned and docked their lunar module with his command module, Gordon said he looked in and "all I could see was a black cloud in there. I didn't see them at all. I looked in there and said, 'Holy smoke. You're not getting in here and dirtying up my nice clean Command Module.'

So they passed the rocks over, they took off their suits, passed those over, took off their underwear and I said, 'OK, you can come in now'."

Gordon had been slated to command the Apollo 18 mission that would land on the moon, but it was cut for budget reasons.

"He was a happy guy and just the best possible crewmate and friend," Bean said Tuesday.

After retiring from NASA in 1972, he became executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints football team. He went on to be an executive in energy and science companies.

Explore further: NASA honors Apollo moon walker Buzz Aldrin

Related Stories

NASA honors Apollo moon walker Buzz Aldrin

March 17, 2006

NASA will honor former astronaut Buzz Aldrin for his involvement in the U.S. space program with the presentation of the Ambassador of Exploration Award.

Nine prominent early astronauts carrying on US space history

January 16, 2017

Early U.S. space history is fading with the deaths of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, John Glenn, the last of the Mercury 7 astronauts, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. But others survive, ...

NASA honors late astronaut Charles Conrad

November 8, 2006

NASA says it will honor former astronaut Charles "Pete" Conrad for his involvement in the U.S. space program with the Ambassador of Exploration award.

Image: Launch of first crewed Gemini flight

March 24, 2015

In a span of 20 months from March 1965 to November 1966, NASA developed, tested and flew transformative capabilities and cutting-edge technologies in the Gemini program that paved the way for not only Apollo, but the achievements ...

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jonesdave
1 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2017
R.I..P. Mr Gordon. You saw things that others can only dream about. And lie about.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.