Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr., born on June 2, 1930, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was an American astronaut and naval aviator who made significant contributions to NASA’s space program. Conrad is best known for his role as the commander of the Apollo 12 mission and for being the youngest person to walk on the moon.
Conrad’s interest in aviation developed early in life, and he pursued his passion by attending Princeton University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1953. Following his graduation, Conrad joined the United States Navy and became a naval aviator. He flew fighter jets during the Korean War and later served as a test pilot.
Conrad’s career took a significant turn when he was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1962 as part of Astronaut Group 2, also known as “The New Nine.” He quickly established himself as a talented astronaut, contributing to the Gemini program.
Conrad’s first spaceflight came in 1965 as the pilot of Gemini 5, a mission that set a new record for the longest manned spaceflight at the time. He spent eight days in orbit alongside his fellow astronaut, Gordon Cooper, conducting various experiments and tests.
Conrad’s most notable achievement came with the Apollo 12 mission, launched on November 14, 1969, just four months after the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. At the age of 39, Conrad became the youngest person to walk on the moon. As the commander of Apollo 12, Conrad led his crew—Richard Gordon and Alan Bean—on a journey to the moon. On November 19, 1969, Conrad and Bean descended to the lunar surface in the lunar module “Intrepid.” During their time on the moon, Conrad and Bean conducted experiments, collected samples, and deployed scientific instruments.
Conrad’s leadership skills were evident during the Apollo 12 mission, especially when the spacecraft was struck by lightning shortly after launch. Despite the challenges, he successfully navigated the mission to the moon and ensured a safe return to Earth.
After his lunar mission, Conrad remained with NASA and contributed to the Skylab program, serving as commander of the Skylab 2 mission in 1973. He and his crew spent 28 days aboard the Skylab space station, conducting scientific experiments and setting new records for time spent in space.
In 1973, Conrad left NASA and pursued various ventures, including business and consulting roles in the aerospace industry. He continued to be involved in space-related activities and served on several advisory committees.
Tragically, on July 8, 1999, Conrad passed away following a motorcycle accident in Ojai, California. His contributions to space exploration and his legacy as an astronaut, particularly as the youngest person to walk on the moon, continue to inspire generations of aspiring scientists and explorers.
Pete Conrad’s remarkable career as an astronaut, his leadership during the Apollo 12 mission, and his distinction as the youngest person to walk on the moon have left an indelible mark on the history of space exploration. His dedication, bravery, and determination to push the boundaries of human exploration continue to inspire and shape our understanding of the universe.