Seattle native Dick Gordon orbits the moon on November 18, 1969.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 6/13/1999
  • Essay 1330
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On November 18, 1969, Pete Conrad (1930-1999) and Alan Bean (b. 1932) land on the moon while Seattle native Dick Gordon (1929-2017) orbits in the Command Module Yankee Clipper.

The 10-day mission, called Apollo 12, was the second to achieve a landing on the moon and it was Gordon's second space mission. Gordon admitted to "rationalizing" the fact that he was able to fly to the moon, but not to actually land. To Gordon, landing on the moon was "the name of the game." Gordon piloted Gemini 11 in 1966 while it orbited Earth, achieving a rendezvous and docking, a space walk, and a high altitude record of 850 miles.

Richard F. Gordon Jr. was born in Seattle in 1929 and grew up near Poulsbo. He graduated from North Kitsap High School and seriously considered a vocation in the priesthood. After graduating from the University of Washington in 1951 with a degree in chemistry education, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and volunteered for air cadet training. As a Navy pilot in 1961, he won the Bendix Trophy for flying an F-4 Phantom from New York to Los Angeles in two hours, 47 minutes, a world record.

After he retired from the Navy in 1972 at the rank of Captain, Gordon became for five years Executive Vice President for the New Orleans Saints football team. Dick Gordon died in November 2017.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 277; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 15, 1969, p. 2; Michael Collins, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey (New York, Farrar, Straus & Geroux, 1974); Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1978; David Freeman, "Dick Gordon, NASA Astronaut and Apollo 12 Pilot, Dead at 88," November 7, 2017, NBC News MACH website accessed November 15, 2017 (
Note: This essay was updated on November 15, 2017.

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