Rocketman


Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad’s Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond by Nancy Conrad and Howard A. Klausner

This loving posthumous biography by Pete Conrad’s second wife presents him in a very positive light… but so far I’ve not run across anything negative written about the guy, so who knows—maybe her view is fair and balanced?

Other than sensing a general acknowledgment that Conrad was widely recognized as an inveterate wise***, I continue to read only good things about him. And it’s clear that Nancy Conrad adored the man.

I first ran across Pete Conrad in The Right Stuff, which opens with a vignette about him during his test pilot days. At the time, I was not sure he was real—in part because of that book’s subtitle “A Novel,” and in part because he seemed too perfect a character to be real.

So here’s Pete Conrad, in a nutshell: “He was the third man to walk on the Moon. He was the first to dance on it.” (from Rocketman’s epigraph) What’s not to love about that? After Armstrong’s stoicism and Aldrin’s intensity, here we’ve got a lighthearted dude.

Here’s a typical scene, during liftoff of his Gemini mission with Gordo Cooper:
“‘Go, you mother, go!’
Pete let it fly, didn’t give a damn whether he was transmitting or not (he was), didn’t care whether it was cool or not. He flicked all his switches at the proper intervals, giggling like a schoolboy in that metal helmet.” (pp. 139-140)

And in this book we have confirmation that on their Apollo 12 mission, Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, and Alan Bean* really did listen (repeatedly) to the song “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies, a song that Dick Gordon apparently adored. (And I thought it was artistic license when they showed such a scene in From the Earth to the Moon.)

This is one fun book to read. Since it’s kind of like hanging out with Pete Conrad for a couple hundred pages, how couldn’t it be fun?

* Space geeks — Alert! Alan Bean’s artwork is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum! You have until January 13, 2010, to get your bodies over there to check it out.

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