SPACE CENTER, Houston -- The Apollo 12 astronauts made an astonishing bullseye landing on the Ocean of Storms today, planted Old Glory and set up a scientific laboratory that immediately began sending the moon's secrets back to earth.
Charles H. "Pete" Conrad and Alan L. Bean, exultant and whistling as they worked, became the third and fourth Americans to stride the dusty surface of the moon after a pinpoint descent less than two city blocks irum target. Sato, Nixon Begin Talks On Okinawa
They had difficulty removing the hot, radioactive plutonium that fuels the generator powering the mission's five major experiments. Millions of viewers were disappointed when the color television camera conked out and halted lunar transmissions.
The third member of the crew, Richard F. Gordon, whirled above in lunar orbit and spotted the Intrepid lander on the rim of the crater in which a Surveyor 3 robot spacecraft set down two years ago.
The spirits of the two surface explorers were high. The 39-year-old Conrad, America's shortest spacemen, had a wisecrack as he made the last long step down the ladder from Intrepid before touching the moon.
"That may have been a small one (step) for Neil (Armstrong) but it's a long one for me."
This was the beginning of real scientific exploration of the moon and it kept them hustling lugging out the seismometer and other delicate equipment it was , hoped will function for more than a year. And at 9:22 a.m., operating on nuclear power, it began beaming data back to scientists on Earth.
The entire science station would have been without power had they been unable to get the eight pound slug of plutonium 238 out of a special graphite and beryllium cask on the Intrepid's side. They struggled to remove it with a special tool and Conrad warned Bean:
"Don't touch that! If you touch that, that's all she wrote."
They finally slipped the plutonium out and inserted it in the nuclear generator.
"I whistle while I work," Bean said, whistling a few notes to prove it.
At 7:42 a.m. Conrad and Bean planted the Stars and Stripes on the lunar surface, but the camera problems prevented Americans from watching the moment.
"I hope everybody down there is as proud of it as we are to put it up," Conrad said, burying the staff into the soft lunar dust.
"We're proud of what you're doing," Houston control radioed back.
The men became excited over small mounds sticking up out of the ground.
"It looks like a small volcano," Conrad said. "It's about four feet high and five feet across. There's a couple of them out here."
As they plodded the moon's light gravity one-sixth that of Earth their bulky white space-suits became coated with the dust they kicked up with every step.
"Hey, you're dirty," Conrad told Bean.
"You're just as dirty," Bean replied. "I can't believe it."
The $78,833 color camera had troubles in the final weeks before launch. Black interference turned up on screens during tests and the camera was modified until it appeared the problem was indicated.
The space agency said the television imaging tube had burned out.
Technicians devised proce dures to get more light through the lens to the tube and the space agency said "later today time permitting, mission control will pass along these instructions to the crew."
A spokesman for the Westing house Corp., builder of the camera, said these steps might result in a "vague image" that would probably be in black and white instead of color. He said there was a . 50-5J chance getting some kind of fuzzy picture.
The problem was caused when the astronauts pointed the camera directly into the sun.
Bean became so frustrated with its malfunction that he slammed it on top a couple times with a hammer but to no avail. The loss of the color j pictures was a setback I geologists as well as disappointment to the astro naut's families and those watching not only In the United States but overseas.
The landing was only 600 feet from the 1967 Surveyor robot and on the rim of the sma crater in which it lay. Conrad and Bean also walked out i 700 feet in another direction to lay out the scientific in struments.