Pete Conrad

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Pete Conrad, NASA File Photo

Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr. (June 2, 1930July 8, 1999), was an American astronaut and the third man to walk on the moon. He served on Gemini 5 & 11, Apollo 12, and Skylab 2 missions, and may have been scheduled for the Apollo 20 mission, which was canceled.

Conrad was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After receiving a bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Princeton University in 1953 he entered the United States Navy, where he became a test pilot and later an instructor. He was one of the second group of astronauts selected by NASA in 1962 - he had previously been considered and turned down for the Mercury Seven.

Regarded as one of the best pilots in the group he was one of the first of his group to be assigned a Gemini mission. As pilot of Gemini 5 he set a new space endurance record of 8 days - the time it would take to get to the moon and back - and tested many spacecraft systems essential to the Apollo program. Conrad was also one of the smallest of the astronauts in height and build so he found the confinement of the Gemini capsule less onerous. He was then back up Commander for Gemini 8 and commander of Gemini 11 in which a first orbit rendevous and docking was achieved as well as using the Agena to boost the crew to a new altitude record of 800 miles.

Conrad was due to be back-up commander of the first flight of the full Saturn V/Apollo into high earth orbit. When NASA created the Apollo 8 mission both prime and back-up crews were switched. But for this Conrad would have been in-line to command Apollo 11.

He retired from NASA and the Navy in 1973, and went to work for American Television and Communications Company, and then McDonnell Douglas in 1976.

After stepping onto the lunar surface, Conrad joked about his own small stature by remarking:

Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me.

He later revealed that this was in order to win a bet he had made with Oriana Fallaci.

In 1999, while motorcycling in Ojai, California with friends, he ran off of the road and crashed. His injuries were first thought to be minor, but he died from internal bleeding about six hours later.

In the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Conrad was played by Peter Scolari (in the first episode, "Can We Do This?") and by Paul McCrane in episode 7, "That's All There Is").

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