Apollo 12 Is Headed Home
Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and I are headed back home to planet Earth. Boy, does that small blue and white ball look beautiful. It is hard to believe three point six billion humans are scattered all over the surface of that sphere, but I know it is true.
One thing that was easy to believe, though, was that if our service module rocket engine did not perform as it was designed to do some thirteen minutes and twenty six seconds earlier, we were going to spend the brief rest of our lives circling this small, dusty and cratered Moon.
This was not something we spent any time thinking about during the earlier part of the mission, but it remained in the backs of our minds. I remember that I thought about it more during our final revolution of the moon as we began preparation for our trans-earth injection (TEI) engine burn.
This is where we had to believe in the people we had worked with back on Earth. We had to have confidence that the humans who had designed, built, assembled, and tested the service module rocket engine had done their jobs to perfection. Dick would say, “I always had confidence the engine would start and burn for as long as we needed it to.” For some reason I was more concerned with insuring we maintained the right burn attitude up to and during TEI. We had verified this inertial attitude with mission control before we went behind the moon that last time, but as I looked out the window at that time, we were pointed at the center of the Moon. I knew this was the way it had to be so that we would be aligned with our velocity vector at the planned ignition time, but it was a bit disconcerting.
Well, our service module propulsion system team had done their jobs perfectly. As we came out from behind the moon that last time and could see our home some two hundred and thirty nine thousand miles distant, Pete would report to mission control, “Apollo 12 is headed home.”
One last memory: as I looked out my window at the Moon, it looked like we were going straight up and away at tremendous speed; much faster than when we left the earth just eleven days ago. I guess that is what one sees when leaving a small planet with only one-sixth the gravity of the earth. I felt like we were going to be home safe in just a few days.
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