Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Haverford, Delaware County
Astronaut Pete Conrad commanded the Gemini XI and Apollo XII space missions.
Pete Conrad was born in Philadelphia in 1930. He attended several prep-schools before going to Princeton where he got a degree in aeronautical engineering. After that he joined the Navy where he was a pilot and later became an astronaut. He went on four missions and became the third of only 12 people to walk on the moon. After NASA, he worked with the American Television Communications Company and then McDonnell Douglas. In July 1999, he was killed in a motorcycle accident in Ojai, California at the age of 69.
Pete Conrad was born Charles Conrad Jr. on June 2, 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended primary and secondary school at the Haverford School outside of Philadelphia and the Darrow School in New Lebanon, New York. After he finished there he went to college at Princeton University where, in 1953, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering.
After graduating from Princeton, he joined the U.S. Navy as an aviator. Later, he attended the Navy Test Pilot School where he served as a project test pilot, a flight instructor, and a performance engineer. After he completed his time there, he was an F4H flight instructor and spent time with two more fighter squadrons. He was selected to be an astronaut by NASA in September 1962. His first flight was as the pilot of Gemini V, which set the space endurance record at that time. He went on to be the commander of Gemini XI and Apollo XII.
It was with Apollo XII that he became one of only 12 people to walk on the surface of the moon. Now a famous quote, Conrad stated when first stepping foot on the lunar surface, "Whoopie! That may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me," (in reference to Neil Armstrong, the commander of Apollo XI and the first man to walk on the moon). After Apollo XII, he served as commander of Skylab 2, the first U.S. Space Station. In total, he spent 49 days, three hours, and 50 minutes in space.
He retired from the U.S. Navy in 1973 after serving for 20 years, 11 of which were with NASA. He left to work at the American Television Communications Company for three years. In 1976 he resigned and began working at McDonnell Douglas Corporation where he held various positions throughout his years there with a final change in 1993 when he became the vice president of project development. He was enshrined in the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1980 and formed his own company, Universal Space Lines, in 1995 in an attempt to commercialize space.
In July 1999, he was on a trip to Monterey from his home in Huntington Beach, California, when he was involved in a motorcycle accident. On July 8, 1999, he died of internal injuries relating to the crash in a hospital in Ojai, California. Ojai is a Native American name for the moon. Since his death, he has had an award named after him, the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award, a prize given by the X-Prize Foundation to a student with the most innovative aerospace concepts.