Richard F. Gordon Jr., Command Module Pilot (CMP) poses in front of a LM mock-up at the Cape, September 1969 prior to the Apollo 12 mission (NASA photo S69-38862).
Astronaut Dick Gordon passed away November 6, 2017, at his home in California, less than two months since the death of his gracious wife, Linda, September 12, 2017. After flying on Gemini XI as Pilot, Dick flew to the Moon as the Command Module Pilot on Apollo 12, supporting Pete Conrad and Alan Bean who landed on the Moon on November 18, 1969.
Dick, Vance Brand, and I worked together as the Backup Crew for Apollo 15 between March 1970 and July 1971. We originally were in the normal sequence of crew assignments to crew the Apollo 18 mission; however, with the cancelation of Apollo 18 in September 1970, it appeared that our only chance to go to the Moon and land there would be to replace the Backup Crew of Apollo 14, Cernan, Evans, and Engle, as the crew of Apollo 17. Dick made sure that we not only were fully prepared to fly Apollo 15, should that become necessary, but that we constituted the best Apollo crew that NASA ever had in line for a mission.
The backup crew of Apollo 15 — (Left to Right): (Commander (CDR)) Richard F. Gordon Jr.; (Command Module Pilot (CMP)) Vance D. Brand, and (Lunar Module Pilot (LMP)) Harrison H. Schmitt. Following the usual rotation schedule of crew assignments, this backup crew would probably have been selected to fly the cancelled Apollo 18 mission. Schmitt, however, was later assigned as the LMP on Apollo 17 (NASA photos S64-31549, S71-51263, and S71-55260, respectively).
In the final event, I flew on Apollo 17. Dick entered the private sector to pursue a very successful management career, including serving as Executive Vice President of the New Orleans Saints, several senior positions in the oil and gas industry, and President of Astro Sciences Corporation. Vance went on to fly on the Apollo-Soyuz mission and to Command three Space Shuttle missions.
Dick Gordon’s intelligence, skill, discipline and mentorship helped to prepare me for the challenges of being the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 17. I will be forever grateful for his guidance, patience and good humor. He will be missed, greatly.
“Time is relentless,” Dick was fond of telling me during our Apollo 15 training — indeed it is.