Few stories are more powerful for us designers/engineers/problem solvers/dreamers in recent imagination than the space race. It is legend in our time, a modern day hero’s journey.
The Glycine Airman was part of that journey during critical missions on a true hero’s wrist. Pete Conrad wore his Airman into space and back during Gemini 5 (August 1965) and Gemini 11 (September 1966).
— Pete Conrad as he became the third human to step foot onto the Moon.
Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (2 June 1930 – 8 July 1999), was an astronaut and U.S. Navy pilot.
Conrad was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mom called him “Peter.” At the age of 21 his fiancé’s father-in-law called him “Pete” and he kept that moniker thereafter.
Conrad earned his pilot license before graduating from high school. In 1953 he graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering and, as a Naval ROTC graduate, received automatic commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy.
After his 20 years in the Navy, he retired as a captain in 1973 to start his business career. He worked for American Television and Communications Corporation and Douglas Aircraft Company, which later merged with McDonnell to become McDonnell-Douglas Corporation. He later started four aerospace companies with the vision of the private sector utilizing space travel.
Conrad had an ever-present sense of humor and enthusiasm. Upon Conrad’s passing, Buzz Aldrin had this to say: “Pete squeezed the most out of every opportunity to expand our knowledge and operating skills.”
Conrad’s (second) wife, Nancy Conrad wrote a biography of Conrad, along with Howard Klausner, the screenwriter for the movie Space Cowboys (2000): Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad’s Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond (2005). Buzz Aldrin penned the introduction to the biography.
Conrad’s NASA missionsGemini 5 (21 August – 29 August 1965)
Command Pilot: Gordon Cooper
Pilot: Pete Conrad
The duration of the Gemini 5 flight was 7 days 22 hours and 55 minutes, this beat the previous record set by the Soviet Union’s Vostok 5 mission in 1963.
(Gemini 5’s duration was a test for the eight days it would take to fly to the Moon and return.)
Conrad referred to the mission as “Eight days in a garbage can.”
On 29 August they splashed-down in the Atlantic, where they were picked up by helicopter and take to the USS Lake Champlain.
Gemini 11 (12 September – 15 September 1966)
Command Pilot: Pete Conrad
Pilot: Richard Gordon
The Gemini 11 mission tested a direct-ascent (first orbit) rendezvous with a target vehicle.
They splashed-down in the Atlantic and were recovered by the USS Guam.
Apollo 12 (14 November – 24 November 1969)
Commander: Pete Conrad
Command Module Pilot: Richard Gordon
Lunar Module Pilot: Alan Bean
Apollo 12 was the second Moon landing (Apollo 11 was the first Moon landing in July 1969). Conrad was the third man on the moon on 19 November 1969 (the first and second being Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during Apollo 11.)
They landed (as planned) at the site where the unmanned probe Surveyor 3 landed in April 1967. Conrad nicknamed the site “Pete’s Parking Lot.”
When Conrad, stepped onto the lunar surface, his first words:
“Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.”
(Conrad was shorter than Neil Armstrong.)
The command module, Yankee Clipper, splashed-down in the Pacific Ocean on 24 November after a flight of 244 hours, 36 minutes, 25 seconds. It was recovered by the USS Hornet. The crew was flown to Pago Pago International Airport in Tafuna for a reception, before being flown on a C-141 cargo plane to Honolulu.
Skylab 2 (25 May – 22 June 1973)
Commander: Pete Conrad
Science Pilot: Joseph Kerwin
Pilot: Paul Weitz
Skylab 2 was the first manned mission to Skylab; Skylab was the first U.S. orbital space station. The mission established a 28-day record for human spaceflight duration. The mission largely consisted of making repairs to Skylab, which had been badly damaged when it was launched 14 May.
Airman in SpaceExcept for the photos where I note otherwise, all the below photos are from NASA.
As you go through them, be sure to click on the photos to see the full size versions and zoom-in.
Distinguishing the AirmanThere are a lot of pictures were we can clearly see astronauts wearing the Omega Speedmaster, which was official NASA issued equipment for manned space flights. There is no mistaking a Speedmaster for an Airman, but we should also eliminate the possibility that we are looking at a Bulova Astronaut. While no Bulova watches passed NASA’s tests, as an American brand it was popular amongst the astronauts. The Bulova has the outer 24-hour bezel, but the indices on the face are 12-hour and it has no crown.
NASA Photo No. S66-50713 – Gemini 11: 12 September 1966
Here is Alan Shepard watching Gemini 11 liftoff. You can clearly see his watch has a 24-hour bezel. From the lugs, the shape and apparent lack of a crown, I think this is a Bulova Astronaut.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini11/html/s66-50713.html
The distinctive characteristics of the Airman to keep in mind are the long lugs, the 24-hour indices, the 24-hour outer bezel and the two crowns, at 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock.
Gemini 5 – before liftoffNASA Photo No. S65-46377 – Gemini 5: 21 August 1965
Conrad is suiting up before Gemini 5 liftoff. Conrad has two watches on his right arm and one on his left.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini5/html/s65-46377.html
NASA Photo No. S65-28737 – Gemini 5: 21 August 1965
Cooper (foreground) and Conrad on the gantry ramp at Pad 19 during the Gemini 5 countdown.
Conrad has two watches on his right arm. Zooming in, the upper one resembles a Speedmaster. The lower one, with an outer-bezel, resembles an Airman.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini5/html/s65-28737.html
NASA Photo No. S65-28746 – Gemini 5: 21 August 1965
Cooper (foreground) and Conrad in the white room at Pad 19 during the Gemini 5 countdown. Conrad has two watches on his right arm. Zooming in, the upper one resembles the Speedmaster. The lower one, with an outer bezel, has the form of an Airman.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini5/html/s65-28746.html
NASA Photo No. S65-28750 – Gemini 5: 21 August 1965
Cooper (left) and Conrad (right) in the Gemini 5 spacecraft before launch. There are two watches on Conrad’s right arm.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini5/html/s65-28750.html
Gemini 5 – after splashdownNASA Photo No. S65-51659 – Gemini 5: 29 August 1965
Conrad is being hosted up by a Navy helicopter after splashdown. Cooper is in the raft. Conrad is wearing three watches, two on his right arm, and one on his left.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini5/html/s65-51659.html
NASA Photo No. 65-H-1511 – Gemini 5: 29 August 1965
Cooper (foreground) and Conrad stepping out of the helicopter onto the USS Guam. The lower watch on Conrad’s right arm resembles an Airman.
Photo source: I have an original photo print from NASA, but do not have an electronic copy or good scanned copy. This is a scan from the seller I bought it from.
(I will make a better scan.)
NASA Photo No. S65-45292 – Gemini 5: 29 August 1965
Conrad (left) and Cooper (right) arrive on the USS Lake Champlain (via helicopter).
The lower watch on Conrad’s right arm has an outer bezel and the profile of an Airman.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini5/html/s65-45292.html
NASA Photo No. S65-46645 – Gemini 5: 29 August 1965
Conrad (left) and Cooper (right) are on the deck of the USS Lake Champlain after being recovered by the helicopter. Conrad is wearing three watches, two on his right arm, and one on his left.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini5/html/s65-46645.html
NASA Photo No. S65-46638 – Gemini 5: 29 August 1965
Conrad (left) and Cooper (right) on the deck of the USS Lake Champlain. We see Conrad has two watches on his right arm. The one further up his arm is almost facing the camera, it looks like a Speedmaster.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini5/html/s65-46638.html
NASA Photo No. S65-51442 | GRIN DataBase No. GPN-2000-001494 – Gemini 5: 29 August 1965
Conrad (left) and Cooper (right) on the deck of the USS Lake Champlain.
On Gordon’s left arm is the Speedmaster. On Conrad’s right arm, the upper watch is also a Speedmaster, the time reads: 2:28. The watch further down his arm looks like an Airman. At first it appears to read 7:28… however, reading it as a 24-hour watch, it reads 14:28, the same time as the Speedmaster. Also it appears to have 24-hour indices. That’s our Airman!
Photo source: http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/ABSTRACTS/GPN-2000-001494.html
Gemini 11 – before liftoffNASA Photo No. S66-50715 – Gemini 11: 12 September 1966
Conrad is suiting up in the Launch Complex 16 suit trailer in preparation for Gemini 11 liftoff. The watch on Conrad’s right arm is an Airman. It has a 24-hour bezel and the shape, in particular that of the lugs, supports this.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini11/html/s66-50715.html
NASA Photo No. S66-57969 – Gemini 11: 12 September 1966
Conrad (right) and Gordon (left) are in the white room at Pad 19 during the Gemini 11 countdown. This would have been a short time after the previous photo. Conrad is wearing two watches; the one on his right arm resembles an Airman, it has the long lugs and an outer bezel. The one on his left arm is probably the NASA issued Speedmaster.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini11/html/s66-57969.html
NASA Photo No. S66-50714 – Gemini 11: 12 September 1966
Conrad (foreground) and Gordon in the Gemini 11 spacecraft (in the white room at Pad 19) during countdown. The watch on Conrad’s right arm has the shape, in particular the long lugs, of an Airman. It also appears to have an outer bezel and 24-hour indices.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini11/html/s66-50714.html
Gemini 11 – after splashdownNASA Photo No. S66-50767 – Gemini 11: 15 September 1966
Conrad is climbing out of the Gemini 11 spacecraft after splashdown. Conrad is wearing two watches. The likely Airman (with the outer bezel visible) is on his right arm and Speedmaster on his left.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini11/html/s66-50767.html
Gemini 11: 15 September 1966
This is a watercolor painting of Conrad (foreground) and Cooper stepping out of the helicopter onto the USS Guam.
The watch on Conrad’s right arm looks like an Airman. I wonder if this is the first watercolor painting of a Glycine Airman.
Photo source: http://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/art/exhibits/exploration-and-technology/from-space-to-sea/gemini-11-astronauts-pete-conrad-and-gordon-cooper.html
The artist is Gene Klebe.
NASA Photo No. S66-50756 – Gemini 11: 15 September 1966
Conrad (right) and Gordon on the deck of the USS Guam after being recovered by helicopter from the splashdown area. Gordon has a Speedmaster on his right arm. The watch on Conrad’s right arm is definitively an Airman. Note the 24-hour indices, the outer bezel and the length/shape of the lugs.
Photo source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini11/html/s66-50756.html
Gemini 11: 15 September 1966
On the deck of the USS Guam, Gordon (left) has the Speedmaster on his right arm. Conrad (right) has the Speedmaster on his left arm and an Airman on his right arm. Note the long lugs and the outer bezel.
Photo source: I have a signed (by Conrad and Gordon) print of this photo. I do not know if this is a NASA photo or if there is a copyright holder for this photo.
It also found it on a museum web site. I will contact the museum and ask.
[Update September 2015: Per M.C. Farrington at Hampton Roads Naval Museum, “there is almost a 100% certainty that a Navy photographer took the image in question.”]
Gemini 11: 15 September 1966
On the deck of the USS Guam, Gordon (left) has the Speedmaster on his right arm. Conrad (right) has the Speedmaster on his left arm and an Airman on his right arm.
Photo source: This was a signed photo that was auctioned in January 2011. I do not know if this is a NASA photo or if there is a copyright holder for this photo.
Apollo 12All the photos I have seen of the Apollo 12 prelaunch preparation and the moonwalks (EVA 1 and EVA 2) show Conrad wearing just one watch, which looks like the Speedmaster.
NASA has an organized Apollo 12 image library: https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a12/images12.html
Skylab 2During the Skylab 2 mission (the first manned mission to Skylab), Conrad once again is wearing two watches. Unfortunately I do not YET have a clear picture of an Airman, but have not given up looking for one.
NASA Photo No. S73-27078 – Aboard Skylab: 30 May 1973
Conrad holding orange juice; he appears to be wearing two watches.
Date and caption: http://images.jsc.nasa.gov/luceneweb/caption.jsp?photoId=S73-27078
Higher resolution found at:
NASA Photo No. SL2-09-755 – Aboard Skylab: 1 June 1973 aboard Skylab
Conrad is cutting Weitz’s hair. Conrad appears to be wearing two watches.
Photo source: http://images.jsc.nasa.gov/luceneweb/caption.jsp?photoId=SL2-09-755
Conrad’s watch outside of the NASA missionsWhen he is not in his space suit there is often a watch on Conrad’s left wrist in many of his photos. Unfortunately for us, he had the habit of wearing his watch on the underside of his wrist. (We can often see the strap clearly in these photos; perhaps a more advanced assessment can be made from the straps.)
There are two photos of Conrad that ran in the newspaper in 1973 where the underside of his wrist and watch face is visible. However from the copies I have seen, the watch is not very clear. Spurred to action by composing this note, I have requested copies from a photo archive and will let you know the result.