Astronauts on Space Station Pay Tribute to Apollo 12's 50th Anniversary

The astronauts on board the International Space Station paid tribute to the second mission to land humans on the moon — 50 years to the day after the Apollo 12 crew launched.

Expedition 61 commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) joined NASA astronauts Drew Morgan, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir in dressing up as Apollo-era flight controllers on Thursday (Nov. 14), donning period wardrobes including white button-down shirts, narrow ties, pocket protectors and black horn-rimmed glasses.

"Today, on the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 12, we pay tribute to the flight control and ground support teams and all who worked behind the scenes to enable us to send the first humans to the moon," wrote Meir on Twitter.

Related: Apollo 12 in Pictures: Photos from NASA's Pinpoint Moon Landing Mission

"We at NASA look forward to returning [to the moon] on Artemis missions!" said Meir, who wore a 1960s-style dress.

The Apollo 12 mission, which on Nov. 19, 1969, achieved the first precise landing on the moon, may have not made it much beyond Earth had it not been for the quick actions of Mission Control. Before the mission's Saturn V rocket could boost the crew of Charles "Pete" Conrad, Richard "Dick" Gordon and Alan Bean out of the atmosphere, the vehicle was struck twice by lightning, causing major instrumentation problems aboard the astronauts' spacecraft.

Expedition 61 flight engineer Christina Koch poses for a photo aboard the International Space Station dressed as an Apollo flight controller in tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 12 second moon-landing mission on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.  (Image credit: NASA)

Fortunately, John Aaron, an Electrical, Environmental and Consumables Manager (EECOM) in Mission Control recognized the resulting scrambled telemetry from an earlier test and was able to direct the Apollo 12 crew to an auxiliary power supply ("Try SCE to AUX"). Bean, remembering where the obscure switch was located in the command module's cabin, did as Aaron suggested and was able to bring the spacecraft's electricity-providing fuel cells back online, allowing the almost-aborted mission to continue.

Although the Apollo 12 astronauts did not live to see the 50th anniversary of their flight — Conrad died in 1999, Gordon in 2017 and Bean in 2018 — the space station crew's tribute was hailed by current members of NASA's Mission Control, including flight director Royce Renfrew ("Tungsten Flight"), who described it as "Awesomeness" on Twitter. 

Expedition 61 flight engineer Jessica Meir poses for a photo aboard the International Space Station wearing an Apollo-period dress as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 12 second moon-landing mission on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.  (Image credit: NASA)

Morgan, who with Parmitano and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov arrived at the space station on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, added to his outfit for Thursday a special patch on loan from the Smithsonian.

"His request to us was could he fly some pieces from the collection related to Apollo 11 and Apollo 12. Because of the risk to a flown artifact we have never re-flown something, but as commemoratives go, the two items that we did loan him, the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 patches seemed appropriate," said Jennifer Levasseur, a curator in the space history division of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. 

Expedition 61 commander Luca Parmitano and flight engineer Drew Morgan work inside the Quest airlock aboard the International Space Station while dressed as Apollo flight controllers as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 12 moon landing mission on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.  (Image credit: NASA)

"We really appreciate the amount of effort and thought NASA and the astronauts put in as a crew about how to commemorate these experiences of 50 years ago. The museum is proud to have helped support NASA in this particular educational mission that they have," Levasseur told in an interview.

Morgan, who completed his tribute outfit with a white vest similar in style to the one worn by Apollo 11 flight director Gene Kranz (flight director Gerry Griffin was on console for the Apollo 12 launch), said in a pre-flight interview that he was happy to be space for the Apollo 12 anniversary because of a connection he made with one of the crew.

"In 1986, when I was in [grade] school in San Antonio, Texas was going through its sesquicentennial and we were writing famous Texans. I wrote to Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean and he wrote back," Morgan told collectSPACE. "The fact that he wrote back to me, I remember thinking that NASA had preselected me to be an astronaut."

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.