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The Time Astronaut Pete Conrad Brought Bob Wills to the Moon

Bob Wills' signature tune as a writer and performer, "San Antonio Rose" (sometimes "New San Antonio Rose," with different lyrics) spread far and wide over the years, with covers popping up by everyone from Bing Crosby to Clint Eastwood. In fact, Wills' 1940 celebration of Tex-Mex influences and hillbilly jazz was a number one hit in outer space thanks to the third man to walk on the moon, Pete Conrad (June 2, 1930 - July 8, 1999).

Four months after the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, Conrad served as commander of Apollo 12's return to the lunar service. Per Diane Diekman's Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story, Conrad took a mixtape of his favorite country songs to space. From this tape, "San Antonio Rose" became the first country standard broadcast from space. When it came time for Apollo 12's splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, mission control could initially only hear part of Young's song "Wine Me Up."

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A 1984 Texas Monthly article on Conrad's Apollo 11 crew mate Alan Bean gives perspective on how Conrad's musical choice impacted his memories of the historic mission. "Pete Conrad, for instance, remembers a tape of country music he brought along on the Apollo 12 mission," wrote Al Reinert. "When he hears "San Antonio Rose" today, it triggers a flood of translunar memories: where they were in the flight plan, how far away from the earth, what he was doing, watching, thinking, when he heard that particular tune. For Conrad the music gave the voyage personality and character."

As for the rest of Conrad's story, he proves that country music and western swing can be for everyone. Instead of hailing from Texas or the Deep South, the future astronaut was raised in Philadelphia and graduated from Harvard before becoming a history-making astronaut.

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The Time Astronaut Pete Conrad Brought Bob Wills to the Moon