The Fantasy - Conrad, Gordon and Bean (1992)

Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and I were assigned by head astronaut Deke Slayton as the backup crew for Apollo 9. This was super news because this meant we would fly three missions subsequent and make one of the first Moon landings.

The most experienced astronaut was designated commander, in charge of all aspects of the mission including flying the lunar module. Prudent thinking suggested that the next most experienced crew member be assigned to take care of the command module since it had a heat shield and was our only way back home. This left the least experienced to accompany the commander. Pete Conrad had flown two Gemini flights, the second with Dick Gordon as his crew mate. I had not flown at all.

During training, Pete and I frequently practiced our lunar surface activities such as emplacing experiments, gathering rock samples, or making observations. We were excited. We were going to have the ultimative adventure someone in our profession could experience. But while we did, Dick Gordon would be orbiting 60 miles above us. We often fantasized Dick joining us on the Moon for all the fun, but we could never really find a way. But now I'm an artist and in my paintings I can have it my way. Now, at last, our best friend has come the last 60 miles.

One last story. 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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