Apollo 12 Lunar Pilot Dick Gordon Passes Away at 88

Astronaut first earned his Navy wings in 1953.

Dick Gordon
Dick Gordon during a debriefing in the quarantine van aboard the USS Hornet, following the end of the Apollo 12 mission on Nov. 26, 1969.NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said Richard “Dick” Gordon, the pilot on the 1969 Apollo 12 lunar mission, died on Monday. During that 31-hour lunar surface stay nearly 50 years ago, astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean proceeded to the moon’s surface while Gordon remained in orbit aboard Apollo 12’s command module, "Yankee Clipper." Gordon, a NASA astronaut since 1963, also served as pilot for the three-day Gemini 11 flight in 1966 that set an altitude record by flying 850 miles above the Earth.

Born in Seattle, Dick Gordon received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Washington in 1951. A retired U.S. Navy Captain, Gordon received his first set of naval aviator wings in 1953. After attending the All-Weather Flight School and jet transitional training, he was assigned to a fighter squadron at Naval Air Station Jacksonville Florida.

Dick Gordon
The Gemini-11 prime crew, astronauts Charles Conrad Jr. (right) and Richard F. Gordon Jr. stand on the deck of the USS Guam after being recovered by helicopter from the splashdown area on Sept. 15, 1966.NASA

In 1957, Gordon attended the Navy's Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Maryland and remained until 1960 testing aircraft such as the F8U Crusader, F11F Tigercat, FJ Fury and A4D Skyhawk. Gordon was also the first project test pilot for the F4H Phantom II. He later served as an F4H flight instructor and participated in the aircraft’s introduction to the Atlantic and Pacific fleets as a member of Fighter Squadron 121 at Naval Air Station Miramar California.

Since his retirement from from NASA, Gordon focused on his role as executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.