☛ NASA / Apollo 12 Lunar Surface Journal – Cuff Checklists: Alan Bean’s Cuff Checklist depicting Playmate No. 2 (Leslie Bianchini, Miss January 1969)
While critically involved in their construction, astronauts were not the only individuals with access to in-flight documentation, and ground personnel frequently annotated the materials with messages, cartoons, jokes, and their signatures. […] Accompanying the cartoons, though, were black-and-white reproductions of Playboy magazine photographs of nude women, an addition for which Reyes denied responsibility.3 The images bear smutty captions playing upon the scientific activities astronauts were assigned to complete while on the lunar surface, admonishing Bean to ‘SURVEY HER ACTIVITY’ and ‘DESCRIBE THE PROTRUBERANCES,’ and inquiring whether Conrad had ‘SEEN ANY INTERESTING HILLS & VALLEYS?’ (“Checklist: The secret life of Apollo’s ‘fourth crewmember'” by Matthew H. Hersch, 2009, pp. 17-18; see bellow for more information about this article)
The story is not new, but it’s worth retelling. Here’s how Playboy’s reporter (and writer of Moon Shot. The Flight of Apollo XII) D.C. Agle told it back in 1994:
It was November 19, 1969, just 25 years ago, and four months after Neil Armstrong had bobed down his lunar ladder. Appolo 12 was racing around the moon with its crew, mission commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, command module pilot Dick Gordon and lunar module pilot Alan Bean. All on board were naval aviators, top pilots who had endured the gut-wrenching snap of an aircraft carrier catapult, and landed a hurtling machine on a heaving ship’s deck. All, that is, except a couple of sneak companions. “I had no idea they were with us,” states Conrad today. “It wasn’t until we actually got out on the lunar surface and were well into our first moon walk that I found them.”
He is speaking of Miss September and Miss October 1967, reprised in the 1970 Playmate Calendar.
While Gordon orbited in Yankee Clipper 60 miles above the surface of the moon, Conrad and Bean moved gingerly in their bulky space suits over the Ocean of Storms. Bending to pick up rock samples. Flipping their cuff checklists for the next instruction. Setting up the solar wind spectrometer. Check the list. Securing the seismometer. Checking the list. And… whoa!
Tossing here head and smiling was the stunning bare-breasted Angela Dorian, with the caption, “Seen any interesting hills and valleys?”
“It was about two and a half hours into extravehicular activity,” says Bean. “I flipped the page over and there she was. I hopped over to where Pete was and showed him mine, and he showed me his.”
Conrad had been joined by the charming and equally nude Reagan Wilson, her hair tousled, reclining against a bale of hay with the caption, “Preferred Tether Partner.”
Just how did these lunar lovelies get by NASA? Easily. “It was part of the game,” says Conrad. “Guys doing joke things. It probably goes back to Mercury. The pad leader, Guenter Wendt, always had some gag thing. So did the crews. I think Dave Scott was the first to think of doing something on the cuff checklist.”
It was a family thing,” confirms Scott, backup commander for the Apollo12 mission. “We spent a lot of time going through the checklist to see where we could insert something humorous. We got that centerfold off the newsstand. Then we had to get it printed on fire-proof plastic-coated paper.”
Unfortunately, Scott and his merry NASA pranksters didn’t get to enjoy publicly the fruits of their labors.
“We didn’t say anything on the air,” says Bean. “We thought some people back on earth might become upset if they found out we had Playboy Playmates in out checklists. They would have said, ‘This is where our tax money is going?'”
But the lunar explorer were, after all, human. “We giggled and laughed so much,” confesses Conrad, “that people accused us of being drunk or having ‘space rapture,'”
After completing their next extravehicular activity, Conrad and Bean rocketed off to dock with Yankee Clipper as the command module was making its 31st revolution around the moon. Then they crawled through the hatch with their moon mementos to rejoin Gordon.
“When we got back to earth,” remembers Bean, “Conrad put the photo on restricted access. He didn’t let them distribute it like he did the rest of the photos. He didn’t want it to get out to the press.”
The Playmates were eventually forgotten. It was not until long afterward, in fact, that Conrad happened to look closely at the photo he’d had framed of himself on the moon (below) with Bean reflected in his visor. “All of a sudden I looked at the cuff checklist on my left arm and I said, ‘Holy Christmas, that’s the Playmate of the Month sitting on my arm!'”
Today, Dick Gordon is involved in the preservation of space hardware. Alan Bean is an accomplished artist. And Pete Conrad is a vice president and flight manager of the McDonnell Douglas DC-X program. Both Conrad and Bean, naturally, have kept their moon checklists. “We weren’t supposed to bring anything back,” saus Conrad. “But they brought back stuff from previous flights and as time went on the guys started getting more aggressive. One astronaut actually took the hand controller right out of his lunar module. I brought back my cuff checklist from Apollo 12 for obvious reasons. The Playmates were a dear memento of the real world and the way it was.” (Playboy: “Playmates On The Moon” by D.C. Agle, vol. 41, no. 12, December 1994, pp. 138, 213, PDF).
The anecdote was recreated as part of the twelve-part HBO television miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (1998) (see Wikipedia and an exhaustive fan site). The scene is depicted in episode 7 “That’s All There Is” at around 00:31:15. On ApolloHoax.net’s forum, a member noticed that the Playmates depicted in the episode appear on the wrong cuff checklist: Pete Conrad stares at Leslie Bianchini (Miss January 1969) which in reality was on Alan Bean cuff checklist, while Alan Bean (in the HBO episode) stares at Reagan Wilson (Miss October 1967) which in reality was on Pete Conrad cuff checklist.
More information online:
- Reproductions of Alan Bean and Pete Conrad’s cuff checklists are available on the official NASA website for the Apollo 12 mission: Apollo 12 Lunar Surface Journal – Cuff Checklists.
- There was two Playmates in Pete Conrad cuff checklist. The first Playmate is Angela Dorian, Miss September 1967 (“Seen any interesting hills and valleys?”). On NASA’s website she’s identified as “Playmate No. 1” in Apollo 12 CDR Cuff Checklist. The second Playmate is Reagan Wilson, Miss October 1967 (“Preferred tether partner”). On NASA’s website she’s identified as “Playmate No. 2” in Apollo 12 CDR Cuff Checklist.
- There was two Playmates as well in Alan Bean cuff checklist. The first is Cynthia Myers, Miss December 1968 (“Don’t forget — Describe the protuberances”). On NASA’s website she’s identified as “Playmate no. 1” in Apollo 12 LMP Cuff Checklist. The second one is Leslie Bianchini, Miss January 1969 (“Survey — her activity”). On NASA’s website she’s “Playmate No. 2” in Apollo 12 LMP Cuff Checklist.
- Pete Conrad picture (taken by Al Bean) shown above is part of the official Apollo 12 Image Library. Photo I.D. is AS12-48-7071 (106k or 669k). The picture was taken at 133:15:36 near Halo Crater during the second EVA.
- Playmates identification was confirmed by Playboy magazine. From Playboy.com : Advice : Daily Advisor : “Playmates in Space”
- “Checklist: The secret life of Apollo’s ‘fourth crewmember'” by Matthew H. Hersch (The Sociological Review, vol. 57, Issue Supplement s1, pp. 6–24, May 2009, PDF)
A very interesting paper about the social and technical history of the checklists attached to the cuffs of American astronauts space suit.
- The Chicago Astronomer: “PlayBoy Bunny Pics on Apollo 12…”, January 15, 2007.
- ApolloHoax.net: “Playboy Playmates on the Moon”, September 13, 2007
- Apparently, Playmates were not only inserted into cuff checklists: see R.R. Auction: “The unofficial fourth crew ‘mate’ of Apollo 12”
Al’s tourist picture of Pete is AS12-48- 7071. Note that Pete’s checklist is open to one of the pages on which the backup crew pasted a Playboy Playmate picture. Note, also, the LM in the background. Journal Contributor Ken Glover notes that the playmate pictures in both checklists were taken from the 1970 Playboy Playmate Calendar. Doug Bennett notes that the two Playmates in Pete’s checklist are Angela Dorian (born Victoria Vetri), Miss September 1967, and Reagan Wilson, Miss October 1967, who is seen in Al’s picture of Pete. The two Playmates in Al’s checklist are Cynthia Myers, Miss December 1968, and Leslie Bianchini, Miss January 19
Spacesuits carried various instructions; the left extravehicular gloves of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Aldrin, for example, bore sewn-on cloth checklists of lunar surface activities. In time, though, the increasing complexity of Apollo’s mission goals required separate ‘cuff checklists,’ small spiral-bound booklets affixed to the astronaut’s wrist and containing more exacting instructions and diagrams, separated by tab dividers. (p. 14)
Vintage color calendar photo of Playboy Playmate Miss August 1967, DeDe Lind, which was stowed away in the Apollo 12 command module Yankee Clipper during its November 1969 voyage to the moon. Measuring approximately 4.5 x 6.5, the topless image is an original taken from one of the 1969 calendars published by Playboy and features the month and year of the Apollo 12 mission—November 1969. Prior to the mission, it was affixed to a cardboard cue card and, unbeknownst to the crew, secreted onboard their spacecraft. Normal wear as one would expect from an object that made the approximately 475,000 mile round-trip journey to the moon and back, this flown iconic piece of 1960s pop culture still retains its Velcro strips which were used to affix it inside the spacecraft. As provenance, signed in black felt tip on the reverse by the mission’s command module pilot, “Flown on Apollo XII. Richard Gordon, CMP.” Accompanying as provenance is a 2009 COA signed by Gordon that reads in part: “This is to certify that the accompanying 4.5” x 6.25” cue card…did, indeed, accompany me on my trip to the moon in the Command Module Yankee Clipper aboard the historic Apollo 12 lunar landing mission…This cue card, which flew with me to the moon, has been in my sole possession and part of my personal space collection since my return from the moon in 1969 aboard America’s second lunar landing mission, and it remains one of the all-time greatest Apollo era astronaut ‘Gotcha’s!’” Also accompanied by a color 8.5 x 11 photo signed with a somewhat racy yet firmly tongue-in-cheek inscription by Lind, referencing her image’s the journey to the moon.
The ‘flight of the Playboy bunnies’ has gone down in astronaut lore as one of the most iconic astronaut pranks. As fellow Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean explored the lunar surface—with small black-and-white photocopied Playboy images pasted into the wrist cuff checklists of their spacesuits—Gordon was left alone onboard the command module to circle the moon. It was there, in the silence and loneliness of lunar orbit, that he discovered his surprise stowaway crew ‘mate.’ This cue card was affixed via Velcro strips to the inside of one of his command module lockers. A uniquely risqué item from a successful risky space voyage—this flown artifact remains one of only two known original Playboy bunny color likenesses to have made it to the moon and back! Pre-certified Scott Cornish and RRAuction COA.
I was remembered of this story while browsing Modcult.