Encyclopedia Astronautica
1969.11.24 - Return of Apollo 12 to earth.


Apollo 12 parachute deployment and other reentry events occurred as planned. The CM splashed down in mid-Pacific at 20:58 GMT November 24, 7.25 kilometers from the recovery ship, U.S.S. Hornet. The astronauts, wearing flight suits and biological face masks, were airlifted by helicopter from the CM to the recovery ship, where they entered the mobile quarantine facility. They would remain in this facility until arrival at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, MSC.

Early on the morning of November 24 Apollo 12 splashed down some 600 kilometers (375 miles) east of Pago Pago, 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) from the recovery ship U.S.S. Hornet. The landing was rough - apparently Yankee Clipper hit a rising wave as it swung on its parachutes - hard enough to dislodge a 16-mm movie camera from its bracket and slant it into Alan Bean's forehead, momentarily stunning him and opening a 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) cut, which Conrad bandaged.

The recovery swimmers soon arrived, tossed respirators and coveralls - replacing the biological isolation garments that the Apollo 11 crew had found so objectionable - into the command module, then assisted the astronauts into the raft. Half an how later recovery helicopters set the crew down aboard the Hornet and they went straight to their mobile quarantine facility. Lunar sample containers and film magazines were removed and flown to Pago Pago and thence to Houston. The astronauts had a longer journey: four days aboard ship to Hawaii, then a nine-hour flight to Houston. On the morning of November 29, Conrad, Bean, and Gordon entered the Lunar Receiving Laboratory for their 11-day stay in quarantine.

That Apollo 12 was a success was apparent even on preliminary evaluation. The procedural changes incorporated to improve landing accuracy had allowed Conrad to put Intrepid down within sight of Surveyor III , exactly as intended. Lunar exploration had been easy; neither Bean nor Conrad encountered any unexpected difficulties and both had oxygen to spare when they returned. And while they had found it hard to apply their field - geology training on the unrevealing surface of Oceanus Procellarum, they had collected nearly 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of samples, most of them documented. The surface experiments they had set up were returning streams of data, and scientists agreed the astronauts had done a remarkable job. Communication between scientists in Houston and the astronauts on the moon had been well handled by Mission Control. If Apollo 12 was a reliable indicator, the scientific return from the remaining eight missions should be gratifying.

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