ALAMEDA -- Apollo astronaut Richard Gordon will be on hand Saturday when veterans and others will gather aboard the USS Hornet to celebrate the aircraft carrier's 70th anniversary and its 15 years as a museum.
The day's activities also will include a panel discussion on the ship's history and a new exhibit, "Hornet: Reflections in Time."
Originally slated to be named the USS Kearsarge as it was being built, the carrier was instead named in honor of the previous USS Hornet (CV-8) that was lost in October 1942 during World War II's Battle of the Solomon Islands. The aircraft carrier is the eighth Navy ship to bear the name Hornet -- the first was a merchant sloop that set to sea in 1775 during the Revolutionary War.
Along with World War II, the current Hornet served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, plus helped recover Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins after they splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after the first lunar landing in July 1969.
The ship also recovered Gordon and his fellow astronauts, Alan Bean and Charles "Pete" Conrad, after the second moon landing in November 1969. During the mission, Bean and Conrad walked on the moon while Gordon orbited above its surface as the command module pilot. Gordon made his first space flight as the pilot of Gemini 11 in September 1966.
The Hornet was decommissioned in 1970 and opened as a public museum 18 years later. On Saturday, the museum will open at 10 a.m., and the panel discussion will begin at 1 p.m.
A gala dinner with Gordon as the guest will take place from 6 to 11 p.m. Black tie attire is requested and period attire is optional, according to the organizers. The USS Hornet is docked at 707 W Hornet Ave., Pier 3, at Alameda Point. For information, go to http://www.uss-hornet.org/calendar/anniversary/ or call 510-521-8448.