Richard Gordon Comes to Glasgow

By Les Ogilvie

On November 14th 1969, Richard Gordon became one of only twenty four human beings who have ever flown to the moon.  On 17th October this year, Captain Gordon will be in Glasgow to take part in two special public events.

Captan Richard F. Gordon first visited space as part of the Gemini 11 mission in September 1966.  Gordon and his colleague, Pete Conrad, travelled in the early Gemini spacecraft to an eventual altitude of 1,369km in a scientific mission to test some of the ideas and principles that would be necessary for NASA to achieve a lunar landing.  During the mission, Gordon and Conrad carried out a number of experiments.  The first experiment involved docking the gemini spacecraft with a second orbiter – the Agena Target Vehicle.  This was carried out succesfully and the attachment of the two vehicles allowed the astronauts to generate a small amount of artifical gravity by spinning the two spacecraft around eachother.  The mission also tested the feasibility of video imaging in space, photographs were taken of atmospheric and cosmological phenomena, and biological experiments on the response of blood and fungi to weightlessness and cosmic radiation were carried out.

In November 1969, Gordon returned to space.  Again with his Gemini colleague Pete Gordon, but this time also with ex-fighter pilot Alan Bean, who had never flown in space before.  This was the Apollo 12 mission.  NASA’s second mission to land on the moon.  Captain Gordon was the mission’s command module pilot.

During take-off (in a rainstorm), the Saturn V rocket was struck twice by lightning and knocked out numerous of the vehicle’s control systems.  In spite of this, the rocket’s flight was unhindered.  However, mission control became concerned that the strikes may have disabled the parachute mechanisms that would be used in the re-entry of the command module, rendering this part of the operation unsurvivable.  The astronauts were not informed of this concern as there was no way to identify and fix the problem even if it had been the case.

Apollo 12 landed on the Ocean of Storms on the moon on November 19th 1969 at 6.54am (UTC), with Gordon still in orbit, alone, around Earth’s satellite.   The time spent on the moon itself was not free of disaster, as Alan Bean accidentally destroyed a key video camera that would send live pictures back to Earth and later left several rolls of film on the lunar surface, which (presumably) remain there to this day.

On November 28th, 1969, the command module returned to Earth.  The parachutes that had been the cause of so much concern deployed successfully, and all three astronauts arrived in the remote pacific ocean safe and well.

Richard Gordon will be in Glasgow in a special, one-off, series of events brought to Scotland by the educational organisation Walk With Destiny. The day’s first event will take place in Blackfriar’s pub on Bell Street in the Merchant City. This will be an unmissable question and answer session where you will have the opportunity to talk directly to Captain Gordon in the intimate surroundings of the Blackfriar’s function suite. For those who may be hungry and thirsty, the pub also does a fine range of real ales and an excellent bar-lunch menu. This event begins at 11am and tickets can be purchased through Walk With Destiny’s website for £30.

In the evening, Richard will be delivering a lecture at Glasgow Caledonian university. Captain Gordon will discuss his time with NASA, his missions to space, as well as his thoughts on the future of space travel. Although this will be a more formal “lecture” than the intimate Q&A session in Blackfriar’s, there will still be the opportunity to ask questions, and you will be able to meet Captain Gordon after the talk, when he will be happy to chat and to sign any autographs. This event is priced at £30 and begins at 7.30pm in Glasgow Caledonian university.

More details at Walk With Destiny.

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