On December 11, 1972, Apollo 17 with Commander Eugene A. Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald E. Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison H. Schmitt landed in the Taurus-Littrow valley on the lunar surface and were (so far) the last men to set foot on the Moon. Apollo 17 was the eleventh and final mission of the United States‘ Apollo program, the sixth mission to land humans on the Moon.
While earlier Apollo missions were important to gain political and technological superiority, the Apollo 17 program was performed to scientifically explore the Moon. The mission included geological surveying, wherefore there was a professional geologist, Harrison Schmitt on board. Various materials were observed and surface experiments, as well as in-flight experiments were performed. To hit all research goals, a great amount of rock and soil samples were taken to Earth.
The spaceship launched on December 7, and when the ship reached the lunar orbit the crew was enjoying a deep sleep. The scientists on Earth needed 70 minutes to wake them up with loud music. But fortunately, they landed safely in the Taurus-Littrow valley on December 11. This landing location was chosen in the hope to find the oldest and most interesting rocks with the help of the onboard geologist. After the Moon buggies were built and the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) was constructed, explosives were placed and later ignited remote-controlled to gain information about the Moon’s structure. The exploration with the Moon buggies were an important task of the mission, since a wide area could be covered. After problems with the buggies in previous missions, there were no difficulties at Apollo 17. A shock hit the crew though, when Cernan damaged a mudguard during a mission, but he was able to repair it with tape, just like we would do it on Earth 😉 While they collected a total of 110.4kg of lunar material, they discovered small orange and 3 billion years old small bullets that presumably resulted from volcanic activities on the Moon.
Luckily, every goal of the mission was hit and it was obligated to Commander Eugene Cernan to take the so far lasts steps of humankind on the Moon before the crew headed back to Earth safely. They were recovered in the Pacific Ocean on December 19, 1972.
At yovisto, you may enjoy the documentary about the Apollo 17 Program.
References and Further Reading:
- Apollo 17 Program at NASA
- The Apollo Program at Smithsonian
- Apollo 17 at Return to Flight [in German]
- Apollo 17 at Wikidata
- Timeline for the Apollo Space Missions, via Wikidata
Space Related Articles in the Blog:
- The Arecibo Radio Telescope – Looking for Extraterrestrial Signals
- Eris – The Planet of Discord
- A4 – The First Human Vessel To Touch Outer Space
- SpaceShipOne – The first private Spaceship
- James van Allen and the Weather in Space
- The First Image from Abroad – Earth Rising and Lunar Orbiter 1
- Fred Hoyle and the Big Bang Theory
- Shoemaker-Levy 9 hits Jupiter
- The Eagle has Landed – The First Man on the Moon
- To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before – Voyager 2