Apollo 12 was to be the second Apollo mission to splashdown near American Samoa and the first one to splashdown near American Samoa that carried astronauts who had walked on the moon. Though the astronauts were not destined to set foot on American Samoan soil, the moon rocks would pass through the Tafuna airport on Tutuila on their way to the United States. Below are a series of articles from the News Bulletin For The People of American Samoa that describe the preparations for and the events surrounding the Apollo 12 splashdown near American Samoa.
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News Bulletin For The People of American Samoa October 8, 1969
APOLLO 12 PLANS MADE
Air Force Colonel Dave Pallister left today after completing initial arrangements for the recovery operations for Apollo 12 which is due to splashdown about 300 miles southeast of here November 24.
Colonel Pallister is base materials director at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
The Tafuna airport will play a vital role in the recovery but the National Aeronautics and Space Agency still has released few details on the recovery.
It has not been announced whether the astronauts will be brought here. Nor has it been announced if they will be placed in a quarantine chamber as were the astronauts in the Apollo 11 shot.
Colonel Pallister arranged with local officials for the handling of five C-130 planes and one C-141 plane at Tafuna. The first planes will arrive here November 20.
The C-141 will be assigned to fly lunar rock samples from here to the Space Center in Houston.
Over 100 Air Force officers and men will be here for the operation.
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News Bulletin For The People of American Samoa November 14, 1969
SPLASHDOWN SCHEDULE SET
The Aircraft Carrier Hornet was steaming today toward American Samoa and its date with the Apollo 12 crew which is due to splashdown 350 miles southeast of here November 24.
Tafuna Airport will be the central point for a massive search and rescue operation in the days before the recovery.
Astronauts Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon and Alan Bean will be taken from their spacecraft to the carrier and placed in a quarantine trailer and returned to Pearl Harbor.
But the lunar rock specimens which they will bring back to earth will be flown to Tafuna Airport by helicopter and placed on an Air Force jet to be flown to the Space Center in Houston.
Governor John M. Haydon and his guest have been invited to view the transfer of the rocks from the chopper to the plane but it is not likely they will see much.
The first shipment of rocks, enclosed in a sealed box, will be flown in at about 6:60 p.m. A second box will arrive about midnight.
Those present are not expected to see more than the transfer of the boxes.
Additional planes and crews are expected to begin arriving here next week for the operation. Captain William Warren, information officer for the Air Force, will arrive several days before the splashdown.
Richard Mittauer, public affairs officer for NASA, will fly off the Hornet and arrive here a day or two before splashdown. Recovery Team leader John C. Storesifer and NASA Recovery Chief J. B. Hammack will be here on splashdown day and will fly back to Houston with the lunar samples.
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News Bulletin For The People of American Samoa November 25, 1969
MOON ROCKS PASS THROUGH
American Samoa was close to a little bit of the moon last night as lunar rocks gathered by the Apollo 12 astronauts were transhipped at Tafuna Airport for flight to the Space Center in Houston.
The transfer between the planes were accomplished hastily and only a small crowd was on hand to watch the operations from a distance.
The first plane from the USS Hornet, a twin-engined craft with about 10 passangers aboard, was scheduled to arive at 7 p.m. but delays on the aircraft carrier held its touchdown here back to 9:35 p.m.
David Peterson of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, the "shepard" for the valuable shipment, supervised the unloading of baggage.
Then two crew members carried a cylinder about 18 inches in diameter and four feet in height to a waiting pickup truck. Peterson said the cylinder contained biolgical specimens taken from the astronauts on the space flight.
Then came the valuable moon rocks. They were sealed in a white box with red and blue lettering which measured about 36 by 18 by 18 inches.
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Another box, somewhat larger than the first, then was off-loaded and hustled to the truck. It contained the thousands of feet of film which moon travelers exposed during their lunar mission.
The entire shipment then was driven across the dark runway to a huge C-141 which was waiting for the 11-hour flight to Houston. The cylinder and boxes were taken through a ramp at the rear of the plane and lashed the floor.
The plane left a short time later.
Landing soon after the first aircraft from the Hornet was another plane bearing Rear Admiral D.C. Davis, commander of the Hawaiian Sea Frontier, who was to remain in American Samoa today.
Traveling with the admiral were three television network newsmen, Peter Hackis of NBC, Charles Murphy of ABC, and Art Tischer of CBS.
The second transhipment was made at about 2 a.m. It included parts of unmanned Surveyor 3 spacecraft which the astronauts picked up on the moon.
The plane left at once to fly to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii before continuing on to the space center.