Apollo 17 – The Final Apollo Moon Landing
Apollo 17 was the sixth and final Apollo mission to land on the Moon. It was the third long-duration ‘J-type’ mission and included the use of the Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV). The mission was focused on studying the geology of the Taurus-Littrow Highlands so NASA flew the first scientist-astronaut, a Geologist named Harrison Schmitt. The mission set records for the longest time on the Moon, moonwalking, in lunar orbit and longest Apollo mission!
Fast Summary Facts About Apollo 17!
- Mission Crew: Eugene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt, Ronald Evans
- Mission Objective: Moon Landing, Science in Taurus-Littrow Highlands
- Launch Date: 7th December, 1972
- Return Date: 19th December, 1972
- Mission Duration: 12 days, 13 hours, 52 minutes
- Distance Travelled: 2,389,769.3 kms (1,484,933.8 miles)
More Fun Facts About The Apollo 17 Mission
- The Apollo 17 mission was focused on gathering geological samples to learn more about the Moons evolution, so the objectives were;
- To conduct a geological survey and sampling of materials and surface features in the Taurus-Littrow region
- Set up and activate a series of surface experiments
- The Command Module (CM) pilot would conduct experiments and photograph the lunar surface from orbit.
- On account of the Apollo 17 mission being the last lunar landing mission, NASA decided to send the first professional scientist-astronaut, a Geologist named Harrison Schmitt.
- Apollo 17 was the last manned Saturn V launch and the only night launch when it lifted off at 0033 hrs (local time).
- While transiting between the Moon and Earth the crew conducted an experiment to link the Apollo crew member’s observations of light flashes (that penetrated even closed eyelids) with cosmic rays from deep space.
- The successful landing of the Challenger Lunar Module (LM) on December 11th 1972 meant astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the 11th and 12th men to walk on the Moon!
- Cernan and Schmitt completed 22 hours and 4 minutes of exploration during three separate ‘moonwalks’ (EVAs) which is a record amount for an Apollo mission.
- At one point while out on the LRV, Cernan and Schmitt had travelled about 7.6 km (4.7 mi) from their LM base.
- The Apollo 17 astronauts collected a record total of 110.5 kg (244 lbs) of lunar rocks/soil during their moonwalks. A ‘gold mine’ of information for scientist back on Earth.
- Apollo 17’s lunar rover would cover a record distance of 35.7 km (22.2 miles) while on the Moon; the most by the three LRV driven on the lunar surface!
- Commander Eugene Cernan was the last man on the lunar surface, and when he departed his final words spoken were;
“...as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. God speed the crew of Apollo 17."
- By the time the surface mission was complete, the two astronauts had spent over three full days (75 hours) on the Moon, the longest of any Apollo mission. You can view the Challenger ascent stage lifting off here.
- On the trip back to Earth, the CM pilot Ronald Evans performed a deep space spacewalk to retrieve exposed film from the Service Module (which would later burn-up in Earth’s atmosphere).
- The greatest adventure in human history, the Apollo Program’s missions to the Moon, came to an end on December 19th 1972 with America’s successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
- It was also the last time humans had left low Earth orbit (LEO) for at least 47 years.
You can visit ‘America’ the actual Command Module from the Apollo 17 mission, as it is on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas!