Captain Richard Gordon works on equipment of the Apollo 12 command module, in preparation for the November 14, 1969, mission.
Photo: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive
Photo: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

NASA astronaut Dick Gordon dies at 88

Astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon, who served as command module pilot on Apollo 12, the second lunar landing mission, died Monday, NASA officials confirmed Tuesday. He was 88.

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Gordon served in the U.S. Navy and became in astronaut in 1963, according to NASA.

“Dick Gordon is an American hero, and a true renaissance man by any measure,” Curt Brown, chairman of the Orlando-based Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and an astronaut and veteran of six space flights, said in a news release Tuesday. “He was an American naval officer and aviator, chemist, test pilot, NASA astronaut, professional football executive, oil and gas executive and generous contributor to worthy causes. He was in a category all his own.”

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, citing family and friends, said Gordon died at his home in California.

According to NASA, Gordon spent more than 316 hours in space on two missions.

“He was the pilot for the three-day Gemini 11 mission in 1966 and performed two spacewalks,” agency officials said. “At the time of the flight, Gemini 11 set the world altitude record of 850 miles.”

Gordon was born Oct. 5, 1929, in Seattle. He graduated with a degree in chemistry from the University of Washington in 1951, according to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. He received his wings as a naval aviator in 1953 and was later assigned to an all-weather fighter squadron at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.

He served as a test pilot and an instructor before he was chosen in 1963 to become one of 14 astronauts to create Group 3.

“Four astronauts died in training accidents before any left the atmosphere,” according to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. “The surviving 10 astronauts flew in the Apollo program.”

Gordon had more than 4,500 flying hours with the U.S. Navy under his belt before he piloted his first space flight, Gemini 11, in September 1966. He served as command module pilot for the Apollo 12 mission three years later.

“In all, Gordon spent 13 days in space, and his expeditions were portrayed by actor Tom Verica in the 1998 HBO miniseries, ‘From the Earth to the Moon,’” according to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. “Gordon, a voracious reader and chemist, also published several technical papers for the Navy and NASA before retiring from both in 1972 at the rank of captain.”

Gordon is survived by six children, two stepchildren and five grandchildren.

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