Breaking the link

Perhaps it was a bitter sweet moment for the command module pilot as he watched his crewmates leave for the Moon. There would probably be some relief that the mission had reached this point, and increasingly looked like it was going to be successful, although there might have been a deep longing for an opportunity to take a ride to the surface knowing that there were only a few kilometres between him and a moonwalk. But for all the CMPs, there was terror in knowing that it required only one or two of many possible failures to occur, and he might have to light his SPS engine and return to Earth alone, as a marked man, having left his crewmates on the Moon.

Alan Bean found Dick Gordon's reaction to sending his crewmates away on Apollo 12 remarkably sanguine. Gordon and Conrad had flown together on Gemini 11, although their friendship went back to Patuxent River Naval Air Station where they were both test pilots and good buddies. Although Gordon's friendship with the likeable and super-competent Conrad had helped to seal his place on Gemini, the experience subsequently gained prevented him from taking a ride to the Moon's surface. Deke Slayton, who decided Apollo's crewing arrangements, generally gave command to the most experienced in a crew, and that was Conrad. Because he wanted the CMP to have had experience of rendezvous, in case the CSM had to rescue an ailing LM, he allowed Gordon to fly the CSM solo. Twenty-three years later, the third member of this friendly crew, Al Bean, completed a painting that imagined Gordon being down on the surface with his two buddies. In his notes on that painting, Bean stated, ''Dick was the more experienced astronaut, yet I got the prize assignment. In the three years of training preceding our mission, he never once said, 'It's not fair, I wish I could walk on the Moon too.' I do not have his unwavering discipline or strength of character.''

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