#3 4th Man

Cocoa Beach, pre-11 launch, blog post#2
Campsites along the Indian River, FL, July 16, 1969

Space Coast Cocoa Beach, FL,  July 1969

The thermometer climbs quick and early. We traverse the sand, our arms filled with beach towels and buckets, shovels and suntan oil. My brother rents a surfboard at Ron Jon’s, while I wait in line for an ice cream. The sweet smell of Coppertone perfumes the air as the cars and campers inch along the hazy A1A.
This afternoon we leave the beach life and drive to the Cape. Clay and I climb in the “SIM”, press a lever, put our hands in the stiff gloves, and don the Lunar Module Pilot’s helmet. With their flight only four months away, Pete, Dick, and Dad are “in the SIM” most days.

Bean_Conrad suit prep, blog photo #1.jpeg

We drive over to the tallest building in Florida, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Two giant cranes for lifting the rocket stages and the spacecraft modules, line the building. We ride the elevator up, up to the top of the Saturn V. Men dressed in white coats, white booties, white hats let us carefully look inside the Command Module, no climbing or touching here. Dad points to the seat where he will be strapped in for launch and splashdown.
LM into Saturn Vblog photo #5
Apollo 12 lunar module, LM-6, is lifted by overhead crane in preparation for the second lunar landing, 1969
Saturn V just out of VAB, blog photo #4.jpg
Apollo 12’s Saturn V (AS-507) is slowly moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building for its 3.5 mile crawl to Launchpad 39A, September, 1969
Outside the VAB, we partially walk down the rocket Crawlerway. I can see Apollo 11 standing tall, waiting in the distance. A few days later, it roars away.
Apollo 11 launch,  blog photo #6.jpg
Apollo 11 launch from the press site at Kennedy Space Center, July 16, 1969

Nassau Bay, Houston, TX, November 1969

12 Schedule, blog photo #7
The mission schedule posted by the kitchen phone.
The squawk box chatter between Mission Control, Intrepid, and Yankee Clipper fills the living room air. A slumber party of blankets and pillows is spread out on the floor. The closest of friends and family remain, the Cernans, the Anders, the Schweickarts, our next door neighbors, Ann and Clay Fulcher who double-dated with Mom and Dad from their college days.
Slumber party, blog post#8
Apollo 8 Astronaut Bill Anders, wife, Valerie Anders and Mom camp out on Bean home living room floor waiting for Conrad and Bean’s first steps on the lunar surface, November 19, 1969.
It is a school day and Mom wakes me up early. Lying in bed, the unlit hallway reflects the flickering pattern of TV images, faintly, I hear the transmission of Dad and Pete’s voices from the moon. In my nightgown, I walk toward the bright lights of the kitchen. My grandmother moves between the dining room and the living room, wiping tables, picking up glasses, throwing out paper plates. She places a percolator of coffee and a box of donuts on a portable table setup for the press in our garage.
The grown-ups have been awake all night, coffee cups have replaced wine glasses. I climb into Grandad’s lap. Mom sits close to the TV with Mr. Cernan by her side.
A warning tone sounds on Dad’s spacesuit. It is the only time during the mission that I have seen Mom worried. We listen to the comms between Intrepid and Houston. No voices are raised, no interruptions, calmly, step-by-step, together, they make changes to Dad’s suit control settings. A few minutes pass, the problem is solved.
In his bulky spacesuit, Dad bumped the LM hatch partially shut when he moved over to Pete’s side of the LM to take a photo. The change in the LM’s air pressure affected the operation of his suit. Fairly quickly Dad looked down and saw the hatch was closed, immediately, he re-opened it and the suit returned to normal.

115:47:55 Bean:  Houston, how does the LM look? I’m getting ready to go out the front door.

115:48:42 Gibson: Al, Houston. The LM is looking good. You’re Go for egress.

115:49:08 Bean: Pete, here I come.

115:49:14 Conrad: No, no, no, no. Let me come. Dum dee dum dum dum. Got to run through this (small) crater. Here I come. Now, wait a minute.  (Pause) Okay; I’m ready for you.

115:49:43 Bean: You might want to give me some directions, too.

115:49:45 Conrad: All right.

115:49:48 Bean: Bumping anything? (Pause)

115:49:52 Conrad: You’re coming straight out and the further you can bend over the better. All right; move to your right.

115:50:00 Conrad: That a boy. Down. (Pause) That’s it; get your knees down. That a boy. Good shape; good shape.

115:50:12 Bean:I’m pulling the hatch closed here.

115:50:15 Conrad: Don’t lock it. Okay, you’re right at the edge of the porch.

Dad coming down ladder, blog photo #9
LMP Bean down the ladder, November 19, 1969.

115:51:13 Bean: Pretty good; I’d better get my visor down though.

115:51:15 Conrad: Yes, sir. My, that Sun is bright. (Pause)

115:51:27 Bean: Boy, the LM looks nice on the outside.

115:51:59 Conrad: …turn around and give me a big smile. That a boy.

115:52:02 Conrad: You look great. Welcome aboard.

myfirst, blog post #10.jpg
“My First Step”, self-portrait by Alan Bean,1985
The living room erupts with applause and laughter. Everyone is hugging Mom. My grandfather has tears in his eyes. Smiling, watching the TV, we hold each other tight.
Dad is the 4th man to step on the moon. He does not make a memorable statement when his boot touches the lunar surface for the first time. That was not his role.
But here on earth at 18706 Point Lookout Dr., the family and friends who have been by his side for the last 6 years, celebrate with feelings of joy, pride, relief, and accomplishment that his (our) dream had been achieved.
beyond a youngboysdream #11.jpg
“Beyond a Young Boys Dream”, self-portrait by Alan Bean, 1989
Mom & Clay, post-EVA, blog photo #12.jpg
Clay and Mom give the OK symbol to waiting photographers after Apollo 12 completes its first moonwalk, November 19, 1969
Amy with flower for teacher, blog post#13.jpeg
Happily off to school with a corsage for my teacher while Dad explores the moon. Fort-Worth Star Telegram, November 20, 1969

6 Comments

  1. I just read the news that Alan Bean has taken his final flight. My deepest condolences to his entire family. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Alan Bean in the “last century” in Huntsville, Alabama. His presentation to a small group of Space Academy Counselors was a terrific introduction to space exploration and left a lasting impression on us all. His kindness and humanity will be greatly missed.

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  2. Dear Amy, I had the great good fortune of meeting your dad in Houston when I was there supporting an HST Shuttle mission. I was struck by what a decent, talented, and intelligent gentleman he was. Hard to imagine a kinder soul, his was a life well lived. Thank you for allowing me to post this to your site, and may God bless your father, you, and your family.

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  3. Dear Madam,

    Today, I’m 68, and I’ve been passionate about astronautics since I was a child, and especially Apollo missions.
    I followed on television all the Apollo missions, from France where I live, but also all the space missions.
    I continue my research today on the internet, inexhaustible source of information!

    I had the chance to discover a documentary film shot in 1999 and broadcast in France on the channel “aerostar t v”, we see your father tell a long story of the feat of Apollo 12, just beautiful !!

    It is therefore by the greatest chance that I came across your beautiful site that I have just eagerly explored …

    I learned of your father’s death On May 26, I was very touched by his passing.
    So, allow me, Madam, to extend to you and your family my sincere condolences.

    For my part, I am French, passionate about aeronautics, and holds a private plane pilot license.
    Unfortunately, I do not have enough English language, so this text has been translated by Google.

    Best regards,

    Jean-Louis PONGNIAN

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    1. Jean-Louis,
      Thank you for your thoughtful, kind words. The study of the history of space travel and the following of current space expeditions is an interesting and exciting pastime. Exploration has lived in the heart of human civilization from its earliest beginnings. Dad was honored to play his part in that journey. He is missed.

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