No Time To Ponder

Pete Conrad (right) urges Al Bean (left) to get back to work

Painting Completed July 2012
19 3/4 x 26 inches, Textured Acrylic with Moondust on Aircraft Plywood

I am frequently asked by people I meet, "What were your thoughts, after you descended the ladder, and stepped on the Moon for the first time?" They always seem surprised at my answer, "I was concentrating on getting my balance in the weak one-sixth gravity of the Moon, so I could start performing the really important tasks listed on my cuff checklist."

Pete Conrad and I had much to accomplish on our two moonwalks. Every minute was carefully choreographed and practiced, over and over again, in preflight training. We were convinced that understanding the origin of the Moon and advancing science in general were the primary reasons for going to the Moon in the first place and we wanted to make every minute as productive as was humanly possible. That was my focus as I began each moonwalk.

Apparently I wasn't always able to hold onto to that focus for three and one half hours.

On several occasions I found myself enjoying my opportunities for new and unique experiences way too much. Maybe pointing up and saying to myself, "That is the Earth" and pointing down and saying to myself, "This is the moon." it was hard to believe what we were doing was possible.

Later, when I discovered an experiment I was to deploy was packed with blocks of Styrofoam, I could not resist the urge to throw one of the blocks as high and as far as I could.

"Watch this Pete", I called out, "I just threw something... it might have gone up 300 feet."

Pete laughed, but he was thinking, stay on our timeline, "Al, stop playing and get to work."

Pete was right. I consulted my cuff checklist, and got back to work.

Now some 40 years later my attitude has changed.

If I could do it all over again, I would take more breaks from scientific pursuits to do the things we humans have fun doing. I would take a football along. Maybe Pete and I would pass it and punt it around in the weak gravity and airless environment of the Moon. It might be more fun to watch on TV than our digging in the dirt, gathering rocks and taking pictures. Maybe it would better connect with the average human back on planet Earth and inspire an earlier post-Apollo return to the Moon.

But then again, I already hear Pete saying, "Beano, get back to work. We have no time to ponder."