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Feb.3, 2010

Vol. 110, No. 8

A memorable astronaut

Pete Conrad ’53 (The Weekly Blog, Nov. 19) was arguably the brightest, coolest, and funniest of all the astronauts. An example of his temperament: His pulse remained rock steady when his Apollo 12 launch vehicle was hit twice by lightning early in the launch.

In Moondust, a remarkable and often poignant story about the post-Apollo lives of the 10 astronauts who walked on the moon, Andrew Smith writes:

“[Fellow Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean] remembers him with a fondness it’s hard to remain untouched by. At Conrad’s funeral in 1999, [Neil] Armstrong, not a man given to hyperbole, referred to him as ‘the best man I’ve ever known,’ and everyone seems to agree on that. He’d failed to make the Mercury 7 [the first astronaut group] only because of his irreverent attitude to the tests, and my favorite story is that when a psychiatrist held up a blank piece of paper and asked him to describe what he saw, he replied, ‘But it’s upside down.’ He is thought to have been Tom Wolfe’s main source for The Right Stuff and was the kind of man other men either wanted to follow or be. … When I expressed sorrow at having been denied the chance of meeting Conrad [who died while Smith was researching his book], [Bean] sighs and simply says: ‘Yes, he’d have been one that you’d have remembered. They come along every once in a while.’ ”

Fred Lamparter ’61
Murrells Inlet, S.C.

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