Skip Navigation

Close and don't show again.

Your browser is out of date.

You may not get the full experience here on National Journal.

Please upgrade your browser to any of the following supported browsers:

Anniversary of Apollo 12 Launch Marks Milestone in Space Safety Anniversary of Apollo 12 Launch Marks Milestone in Space Safety

This ad will end in seconds
Close X

Want access to this content? Learn More »

Forget Your Password?

Don't have an account? Register »

Reveal Navigation



Anniversary of Apollo 12 Launch Marks Milestone in Space Safety



The liftoff of the Apollo 12 mission, the rocket of which was hit by lightning

Efforts to get humans into space have always been fraught with danger, which has been underscored by a number of disasters and near-disasters. One such near-disaster was the launch of the Apollo 12 mission to the moon on Nov. 14, 1969, in which the Saturn V rocket that was being used to get astronauts Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean to the moon was struck by lightning—twice.


"What the hell was that?" Gordon radioed to the ground after the first hit, which caused a major electrical disturbance, according to NASA. Twenty seconds later, another strike hit the spacecraft. "Okay, we just lost the platform gang," reported Conrad, "I don't know what happened here. We had everything in the world drop out."

After it became clear that they had been hit by lighting and after the spacecraft's electrical systems came back, astronaut Conrad radioed to the ground that "I think we need to do a little more all-weather testing," to which the person on the other end responded: "Amen."

The Apollo 12 exerience did lead to greater consideration of atmospheric electrical activity when launching spacecraft, according to the NASA, which produced an incident report (PDF) analysis the following year of what happened and how similar incidents could be minimized in future launches.


Above is the audio from NASA of the first five minutes after launch, including the two lightning strikes, and below that are photos from the mission's time on the moon.

42nd Anniversary of the Apollo 12 Launch
See Complete Photo Essay



comments powered by Disqus