Why A NASA Astronaut Pranked Everyone With A Fake Cockroach

The mystery of the missing roach was the last problem to be cleared before approving Apollo 12 for launch. The cockroach remained hidden and it’s entirely possible that the insect flew to the moon alongside Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean (shown above). Conrad referenced the stowaway during a televised press conference held with the crew during their return to Earth, holding up a piece of paper with a roach taped to it, as reported by How Stuff Works.

In NASA’s transcript of the commentary from within the spacecraft during Apollo 12, page 907 features Conrad asking for George Low and telling listeners “He sent us a letter about not having a certain passenger aboard the spacecraft…and we just wanted to show it to George so that he could write the proper letter to allow him to have made the flight.” When someone on the ground responds “You found him, huh?” Conrad responds in the affirmative and jokes that the roach was in the food locker and is “very fat.” 

According to Jonathan H. Ward’s 2015 book “Countdown to a Moon Launch,” Conrad had smuggled a plastic roach onto the ship with this very prank in mind. Per the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the mission was a success amid the roach concern and subsequent jokes. Conrad and Bean performed two moonwalks, during which they installed several instruments to be used for multi-year experiments and collected 75 pounds of sample material from the lunar surface.