Load 'em Up, Move 'em Out

Al Bean with the two ALSEP experiment packages fixed to either end of a carry bar

Painting Completed 1986
24 x 20 inches, Acrylic on Masonite

The highest priority task Pete Conrad and I were scheduled to accomplish during our first moonwalk on Apollo 12 was the deployment of an unmanned geophysical station. We called it ALSEP, an acronym for Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, and it consisted of a cluster of six experiments all connected to a central command and control station and powered by the first thermonuclear electrical power generator on the Moon.

I have painted myself attaching the ALSEP components to either end of a lightweight metal bar. This "high tech barbell" was the best way we could think of to carry all this hardware to a relatively flat spot 300 feet away so the experiments wouldn't be blown over or covered with dust when we blasted off the Moon the next day. The waste-basket-shaped object on the near end of the bar is the seismometer. It measures moonquakes or meteoroid impacts; and, as surprised scientists discovered, our footsteps as we moved about our tasks. The magnetometer with its gold foil-covered sensor arms is just below.

In my right had you can see the bottom of the thermonuclear electric power generator. I can distinctly remember feeling the intense heat from the decaying plutonium fuel element - even through my heavily insulated suit. I wondered if the dedicated and able suit makers on Earth had anticipated this heat and built the suit to withstand it. But I didn't have time to worry about it then. We had to get on with our work. It was time to "load 'em up, and move 'em out."