Pete Conrad : biography
Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr. (June 2, 1930 – July 8, 1999) was a U.S. Navy officer and NASA astronaut, and during the Apollo 12 mission became the third man to walk on the Moon. He set an eight-day space endurance record along with his command pilot Gordon Cooper on the Gemini 5 mission, and commanded the Gemini 11 mission. After Apollo, he commanded the Skylab 2 mission (the first manned one), on which he and his crewmates repaired significant launch damage to the Skylab space station. For this, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978.
Conrad died on July 8, 1999, less than three weeks before the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing. While motorcycling in Ojai, California, with his wife and friends, he ran off the road and crashed. His injuries were first thought to be minor, but he died from internal bleeding about six hours later. He was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery, with many Apollo-era astronauts in attendance.
Pete Conrad Spirit Award
On September 8, 2008, The Conrad Foundation announced the launch of their 2008 Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards. Teams of high school students across the nation are invited to compete in this innovative program. The competition engages high school students in creating commercial products using science and technology.
Students design products in personal space flight, lunar exploration and renewable energy. NASA’s call for a human return to the Moon and the increased interest in space transportation are the foundation of this year’s Conrad Award aerospace challenges. In addition, students will answer Al Gore’s energy challenge to America, by using renewable energy to change everyday life.
“This generation like every other generation, has the ability to design its future. Our award provides the resources for them to do so,” said Nancy Conrad, wife of the late Pete Conrad and founder of the Conrad Foundation.
Students create unique products, produce viable business plans, and are given opportunities to bring their ideas to market. This competition provides students with the ability to network with scientists, university professors, world business leaders, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. “Winning is just the beginning,” said Nancy Conrad. “This competition is the pipeline from education to industry. We have not only created a program, we’re driving a movement.”
In May 2007 the X PRIZE Foundation announced the creation of the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award, to be presented to "the high school team that develops the most creative, new space concept to benefit the emerging personal spaceflight industry." The first award was presented at the 2007 Wirefly X PRIZE Cup at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, it was presented to two students from Milken Community High School.
Aviation career in the U.S. Navy
Conrad became a naval aviator and a fighter pilot. He excelled in Navy flight school, and he served for several years as an aircraft carrier pilot in the Navy. Conrad also served as a flight instructor in the Navy flight schools along the Gulf of Mexico.
Next, Conrad applied for and he was accepted by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Patuxent, Maryland, where he was assigned as a Project Test Pilot.Rocketman, pp. 83, 146.
During this period, Conrad was invited to take part in the selection process for the first group of astronauts for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (the "Mercury Seven"). Conrad, like his fellow candidates, underwent several days of what they considered to be invasive, demeaning, and unnecessary medical and psychological testing at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in New Mexico. Unlike his fellow candidates, Conrad rebelled against the regimen. During a Rorschach inkblot test, he told the psychiatrist that one blot card revealed a sexual encounter complete with lurid detail. When shown a blank card, he turned it around, pushed it back and replied "It’s upside down".