NASA astronaut Dick Gordon, pilot of Apollo 12, dead at 88

Gordon became one of only two dozen men to fly to the moon when he crewed the second lunar landing in 1969.

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Astronauts Richard F. Gordon Jr. (left), pilot, and Charles Conrad Jr., command pilot, relax after a training session for the Gemini 11 mission.


Dick Gordon, a former NASA astronaut and the command module pilot on Apollo 12, died Monday at the age of 88.

Gordon, whose death was announced by NASA on Tuesday, was one of only two dozen men to fly to the moon, making the trip as a member of the crew on the second lunar landing mission in 1969. Gordon was slated to make a moon walk as the commander of Apollo 18, but that mission was canceled due to budgetary cuts.

While he never got the chance to walk on the moon, Gordon spent more than 315 hours in space on two missions. Gordon was also the pilot for the Gemini 11 mission in 1966, performing two spacewalks.

"NASA and the nation have lost one of our early space pioneers," Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. "We send our condolences to the family and loved ones of Gemini and Apollo astronaut Richard Gordon, a hero from NASA's third class of astronauts," which included Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and 12 others.

As command module pilot of Apollo 12, Gordon remained in lunar orbit aboard the Yankee Clipper, taking photos for potential future landing sites and later performing final re-docking maneuvers, while crewmates Pete Conrad and Alan Bean landed in the Ocean of Storms.

During a 1999 interview, Gordon said that during his trip to explore the moon, he and his fellow astronauts really discovered Earth.

"From 240,000 miles away, it's very beautiful … a very delicate planet sitting out there in the blackest -- it's the blackest black you'll ever see," he said. "It's just devoid of any color whatsoever. And it's been described like a Christmas tree ornament hanging out there. You can't see how it's suspended or anything. It's -- philosophically you could emote about it, I'm sure, for quite some time. But it is a startling picture to look at the Earth coming back from being around the moon as it comes back."

Richard F. Gordon Jr. was born in Seattle on Oct. 5, 1929. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Washington in 1951 and went on to be a test pilot and flight instructor before joining NASA in 1963.

After retiring from the space agency in 1972, Gordon held executive positions at several companies in the oil and gas, engineering and technology industries.

Gordon is survived by six children and two stepchildren.