We’re Losing Our Apollo Astronauts

Astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon with Charles “Pete” Conrad before their Gemini 10 mission. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon, who died on Monday at the age of 88, was the third Apollo-era astronaut to pass away this year and the second who was involved in a lunar mission.

Gordon was command module pilot for Apollo 12, which saw Pete Conrad and Alan Bean walk on the moon in November 1969. Gordon stayed in orbit aboard aboard the command service module Yankee Clipper while his colleagues explored the lunar surface. It was the second and final spaceflight for Gordon, who flew aboard Gemini 10 with Conrad three years earlier.

In January, Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan passed away at the age of 82. Cernan, who was the last man to walk on the moon, explored the Taurus-Littrow highlands with Harrison Schmitt in December 1972. Cernan had earlier orbited the moon on Apollo 10 in May 1969 and flown aboard Gemini 9 in June 1966.

Paul Weitz, who died on Oct. 22 at the age of 85, was the third Apollo-era astronaut to pass away this year. Weitz flew with Conrad and Joseph Kerwin as part of the Skylab 2 mission, which was a 28-day mission to America’s first space station. The crew saved the station by deploying a sun shade to replace a missing heat shield and freed a stuck solar panel needed to power the station. Weitz later commanded the maiden flight of the space shuttle Challenger.

All the remaining Apollo-era astronauts are in their 80’s. Jim Lovell and Frank Borman, who flew the first mission around the moon aboard Apollo 8, are the oldest at 89. Skylab 4 astronaut Edward Gibson is the youngest; he will turn 81 on Wednesday.

Of the 12 men to walk on the moon, six are still with us: Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, David Scott, Charlie Duke, John Young and Harrison Schmitt. Those who have passed on include Conrad, Cernan, Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell and James Irwin.

The table below shows all Apollo and Skylab astronauts.

Apollo 7
Oct. 11-22 1968
Test command service module in Earth orbitWally SchirraMarch 12, 1923May 3, 2007d. 84
Donn EiseleJune 23, 1930December 2, 1987d. 57
Walt CunninghamMarch 16, 193285
Apollo 8
Dec. 21-27 1968
First human voyage to the moon; 10 orbits above the lunar surfaceFrank BormanMarch 14, 192889
Jim LovellMarch 25, 192889
Bill AndersOctober 17, 193384
Apollo 9
March 3-13 1969
Test command service module and lunar module in Earth orbitJames A. McDivittJune 10, 192988
David R. ScottJune 6, 193285
Russell L. SchweickartOctober 25, 193582
Apollo 10
May 18-26 1969
Dress rehearsal for first human landing on the moon; lunar module flew within 50,000 feet of lunar surfaceTom StaffordSeptember 17, 193087
John YoungSeptember 24, 193087
Eugene CernanMarch 14, 1934Jan. 16, 2017d. 82
Apollo 11
July 16-24 1969
First manned moon landing on Sea of Tranquility; Armstrong and Aldrin spent more than two hours walking on the surfaceNeil ArmstrongAugust 5, 1930August 25, 2012d. 82
Buzz AldrinJanuary 20, 193087
Michael CollinsOctober 31, 193087
Apollo 12
Nov. 14-24 1969
Second manned landing on the moon; recovered part of Surveyor 3 landerCharles “Pete” ConradJune 2, 1930July 8, 1999d. 69
Alan BeanMarch 15, 193285
Dick GordonOctober 5, 1929Nov. 6, 2017d. 88
Apollo 13
April 11-17 1970
Landing in Fra Mauro aborted due to explosion in service module oxygen tankJim LovellMarch 25, 192889
Fred HaiseNovember 14, 193383
Jack SwigertAugust 30, 1931December 27, 1982d. 51
Apollo 14
Jan. 31 – Feb. 9, 1971
Exploration of the Fra Mauro formationAlan ShepardNovember 18, 1923July 21, 1998d. 74
Edgar MitchellSeptember 17, 1930February 4, 2016d. 85
Stu RoosaAugust 16, 1933December 12, 1994d. 61
Apollo 15
July 28 – Aug. 7, 1971
Exploration of Hadley Rille; first use of the lunar rover; Worden made first deep space walk to retrieve film from the service moduleDavid ScottJune 6, 193285
James IrwinMarch 17, 1930August 8, 1991d. 61
Al WordenFebruary 7, 193285
Apollo 16
April 16-27 1972
Exploration of Descartes Highlands; Young and Duke spent more than 20 hours walking and driving on the surfaceJohn W. YoungSeptember 24, 193087
Charles DukeOctober 3, 193582
Ken MattinglyMarch 17, 193681
Apollo 17
Dec. 7-19 1972
Final manned moon mission; Cernan and Schmitt spent 22 hours outside the lunar module exploring Taurus-Littrow highlandsEugene CernanMarch 14, 1934Jan. 16, 2017d. 82
Harrison SchmittJuly 3, 193582
Ron EvansNovember 10, 1933April 7, 1990d. 56
Skylab 2
May 25 – June 22 1973
First U.S. space station crew; set new space duration record of 28 days; during launch, Skylab damaged with one solar panel torn off, another trapped against the ship by debris; crew freed the solar panel and spread a parasol over area where micrometeorite/ heat shield had been torn off; astronauts completed many of planned experimentsPete ConradJune 2, 1930July 8, 1999d. 69
Joseph KerwinFebruary 19, 193285
Paul WeitzJuly 25, 1932October 22, 2017d. 85
Skylab 3
July 28 – Sept. 25 1973
Second U.S. space station crew set new space duration record of 59 days; conducted experiments on human body’s adaptation in space, observed sun using powerful space telescopes; placed second shield over parasol to protect stationAlan BeanMarch 15, 193285
Owen GarriottNovember 22, 193086
Jack LousmaFebruary 29, 193681
Skylab 4
Nov. 16, 1973 – Feb. 8, 1974

Third and final crew set new duration record of 84 days; continued experiments begun by first two crewsGerald CarrAugust 22, 193285
Edward GibsonNovember 8, 193681
William PogueJanuary 23, 1930March 3, 2014d. 84
Soyuz Test Project
July 15-24 1975

First joint docking of American and Soviet spacecraft in orbit; first and only spaceflight for Deke Slayton, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts who had been grounded due to a heart irregularityTom StaffordSeptember 17, 193087
Vance BrandMay 9, 193186
Deke SlaytonMarch 1, 1924June 13, 1993d. 69