Ridiculous History: 5 of NASA's Greatest Pranks


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Did a Cockroach Go to the Moon, Too?
Apollo 12 Commander Charles 'Pete' Conrad (seen here training with Apollo 12 astronaut Al Bean) joked that a cockroach hitched on board their mission to the moon. Nobody knows if the insect actually made the round-trip or not. NASA

A six-legged squatter caused a bit of unrest in the days leading up to NASA's Apollo 12 mission. Following a test run at the Kennedy Space Center, a cockroach was seen hiding out in the command module that was to function as the crew's living space. (It would also deliver them back to Earth after re-entering the atmosphere.) Not wanting any insect stowaways on the vessel, launch director Bob Sieck used all sorts of tricks to try to capture the intruder. But to the amusement of many, his quarry eluded him.

Apollo 12 took off on Nov. 14, 1969, with three astronauts on board, including Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. Five days later, Conrad became the third man to ever walk on the moon. During the journey home, Conrad took part in an in-flight, televised press conference. As the broadcast wound down, he held up a strip of white cardboard. On its surface stood a black, teardrop-shaped object with some faintly visible antennae.

Thinking this was the long-lost roach, one of Conrad's colleagues at NASA said, "You found him, huh?"

"We sure did," replied the astronaut. "He was in the food locker."

"Is he fat?" asked the colleague.

"He's very fat," Conrad answered.

Alas, it was all a practical joke. Conrad later admitted that the roach he showed off was just a plastic toy he'd smuggled aboard. To this day, the real bug's fate remains unknown.

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