COOPER'S FLOWN APOLLO 12 ROBBINS MEDALLION.
A GIFT FROM "PETE."
Flown Apollo 12 Robbins medallion, sterling silver, 1¼ inches in diameter. The crew mission emblem is on the obverse with the mission dates and serial number 147 on the reverse.
COOPER REFLECTS ON HIS OWN LUNAR MISSION PROSPECTS WITH APOLLO 13. His signed provenance letter reads: "This medallion was carried on the Apollo XII flight by my old friend Charles "Pete" Conrad during November 14 to 24, 1969. He was the commander of this mission which made the second lunar landing of the Apollo Program at the Ocean of Storms. Pete really made a pin-point landing - right next to the crater that the robotic Surveyor III spacecraft landed in just over 2 years before. He and Alan Bean then made two lunar surface explorations and were able to bring back parts of the Surveyor III for study.
Pete and I flew together back in 1965 on Gemini 5. We made the longest mission then to date, staying 8 days in earth orbit. That length was about the time NASA planned for the first lunar landing missions and the Gemini 5 flight proved that man could survive that long in space with no ill effects.
This medallion has serial number 147 engraved on the back side and is one of the Robbins series of medallions made for flight crews during the Apollo Program. I served as back-up commander on Apollo 10 which had the first Lunar Module flown to lunar orbit in May of 1969. That mission served as a 'dress rehearsal' for Apollo 11 because Apollo 10 did all the mission sequence flight steps except for the actual lunar landing. The lessons learned and techniques demonstrated on Apollo 10 proved that indeed Apollo 11 could land on the moon which happened just 2 short months later in July 1969.
Normal Apollo crew rotations from back-up crew to prime fight crew was as follows the back-up crew would be named the prime crew of the third mission down the line in the Apollo flight program. For instance, Tom Stafford, John Young, and Gene Cernan backed-up the prime Apollo 7 crew of Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walt Cunningham. Tom's crew was then in line to fly Apollo 10, the third mission after Apollo 7. Base on this rotation, I should have been selected as commander of Apollo 13. However, office 'politics' in the Astronaut Corps, the return to flight status of Alan Shepard after the correction of an inner ear disorder, and the view points of certain NASA managers allowed for the selection of Shepard ahead of me for command of Apollo 13. Shepard fell behind in training and was allowed to switch to commander of Apollo 14, moving Jim Lovell and his crew up to Apollo 13.
Of course, if I had received command of Apollo 13, it would have been my 'lost moon.' I would not have been able to walk on the moon because of the flaw in the oxygen tank which caused the explosion. That explosion made any chance of landing impossible because the Lunar Module was needed to make the return to earth. No one knew that flaw had happened until an exhaustive review of flight equipment and procedures after the accident. If I had been selected for command on Apollo 13, there would not have been a falling behind in training because of my extensive work experience during back-up on Apollo 10. Shepard was very fortunate to be pulled from command of '13' and placed on '14.' As it turned out, he was the only one of us Mercury guys to actually fly to and land on the moon."