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Test Pilot and U.S. Astronaut
Born Philadelphia, PA
June 2, 1930 - July 8, 1999
Born and raised near Philadelphia, Conrad developed his love for flying at an early age. When he was 5, he talked his father into allowing him to ride in a small plane -- and then popped into the front seat ahead of everyone else.
He took flying lessons and flew solo at the age of 16. Later, he became an aeronautical engineer, receiving his degree from Princeton in 1953, and a famed Navy test pilot. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration selected him as an astronaut in 1962, three years after the first seven astronauts were chosen.
He was the third astronaut of twelve astronauts to walk on the moon. During Apollo 12, he and astronaut Alan Bean spent seven hours and 45 minutes on the lunar surface. Among other tasks, they installed a nuclear power generating station to provide a power source for long-term experiments.
Conrad uttered this statement as he stepped from the landing module Intrepid onto the lunar surface on November 19, 1969, four months after Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon:
``Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but it's a long one for me.''
Then, as fellow astronaut Alan Bean listened from Intrepid and millions on Earth eavesdropped, Conrad hummed contentedly as he hopped around a barren world 250,000 miles from home:
``Dum de dum dum dum. Dum diddee dum dum dum.''
In addition to commanding the Apollo 12 moon landing, Conrad flew two
Gemini missions in the 1960s and commanded the first Skylab mission in 1973.
He piloted the eight-day Gemini 5 mission in 1965, which set an endurance record in
orbiting the earth. A year later, Conrad commanded Gemini 11, which docked with
another craft during orbit and set a space altitude record of 853 miles. During the
28-day Skylab flight in May-June 1973, Conrad established a personal endurance record for
time in space by bringing his total flight time to 1,179 hours and 38 minutes. He
called his last mission in space the most satisfying, working to repair the damage Skylab
suffered during its liftoff.
After retiring from NASA and the Navy in 1973 with the rank of Captain, Conrad worked for American Television and Communications Corp. in Denver and McDonnell Douglas Corp., the aviation manufacturer.
He was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, two NASA Exceptional Service Medals, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. He was enshrined in the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1980.
Conrad died July 8, 1999 in an accident that reflected the exuberance with which he roared through life. He was killed in a motorcycle wreck near Ojai, California at the age of 69. He is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on July 19, 30 years to the day of his historic walk on the moon.
The preceding is a composite of several articles written by Martin Merzer, Herald Senior Writer for the Miami Herald, that appeared on 9, 10, and 11 July 1999. This article was further enhanced by material from a NASA biography of "Pete" Conrad.
Photograph and portrait are courtesy of NASA
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Updated: March 12, 2004