U.S. astronaut Richard Gordon, who flew around the moon but never got a chance to walk on the surface, has died. He was 88.
Richard “Dick” Gordon Jr. was a test pilot chosen in NASA’s third group of astronauts in 1963. He flew on Gemini 11 in 1966, walking in space twice.
During the Apollo 12 mission in November 1969, Gordon circled the moon in the command module Yankee Clipper while Alan Bean and Charles Conrad landed and walked on the lunar surface.
“Dick will be fondly remembered as one of our nation’s boldest flyers, a man who added to our own nation’s capabilities by challenging his own. He will be missed,” acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement Tuesday.
Apollo 12 marked the first moon landing to touch down in a designated spot.
Gordon voiced few regrets at not having walked on the moon, anticipating another chance later in the program. He was, in fact, slated to command the Apollo 18 mission that would land on the moon, but it was cut for budget reasons.
Only 12 of 24 astronauts who went to the moon walked on the lunar surface.
In a 1997 NASA oral history, Gordon said people would often ask if he felt alone while his two partners walked on the moon. “I said, ‘Hell no, if you knew those guys, you’d be happy to be alone.”’
Gordon died Monday at his home in California. No cause of death was given.