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Lightning and the Thunder

They say that lightning never strikes twice.

Tell that to Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, and Richard Gordon.

The Crew of Apollo 12. From left to right: Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon, Alan Bean

They were the crew of Apollo 12, the second manned mission to the Moon.  Thirty-six seconds into the flight, lightning struck the Saturn V launch vehicle carrying them skyward.  Most of their instrumentation, and all three of their fuel cells, went offline.

Fifty-two seconds into the flight, a second bolt hit them, taking out their altitude indicator.  Communications with Mission Control were garbled.

Fortunately, their EECOM John Aaron recognized the pattern of failure from a test exercise and made a call to the Flight Director to calmly suggest a course of action: “Flight, EECOM. Try SCE to Aux.”

Problem was, this wasn’t a standard call.  Neither Flight Director Gerald Griffin, CAPCOM Gerald Carr, nor Mission Commander Pete Conrad recognized it.  Luckily Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean had a experienced a similar training exercise, and quickly made the switch to backup power.  The mission continued without incident.  This quick and calm thinking earned John Aaron the title “Steely-Eyed Missile Man.”

John Aaron, the original Steely-Eyed Missile Man.

This weekend, we will be celebrating the steely-eyed missile men and 50th anniversary of Apollo 12 at our monthly Stargazing and Laser Light Night event!  It’s also the holiday season, of course, and we’ll have plenty of good cheer to share.  Join us in the lobby of the planetarium for ornament making and astronaut dress up.  You can even take a picture with a live spaceman!  Imagine how amazing your holiday cards will look!  As always, we’ll be checking out the skies (weather permitting) with telescopes, and featuring five programs in the Abbitt Planetarium: Star of Wonder: Mystery of the Christmas Star, Virginia Skies, Holiday Magic, Laser Metallica, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  Check out our website for all the details.  The lobby, cafe, and stargazing open at 5:30pm, first show is at 6:30pm.  Stargazing and lobby activities are free; shows are $6 each, or see any 2 for $10.  Members are always half-price!  See you there!

Carpe noctem,


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