Eugene Cernan drives the Apollo 17 rover

Apollo 17

In 1972 Apollo 17 became the last mission to land astronauts on the Moon.

Eugene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt and Ronald Evans flew on the mission. Schmitt, the only scientist to have walked on the Moon, and Cernan explored the surface with a four-wheeled rover vehicle, collected rock samples and conducted experiments while Evans orbited in the command module.

Photo: Eugene Cernan drives the Apollo 17 rover (NASA/Harrison Schmitt)

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Eugene Cernan drives the Apollo 17 rover

About Apollo 17

Harrison Schmitt becomes the only scientist to walk on the Moon.

About Apollo 17

Apollo 17 was the final mission of NASA's Apollo program, the enterprise that landed the first humans on the Moon. Launched at 12:33 am Eastern Standard Time (EST) on December 7, 1972, with a crew made up of Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, it was the last use of Apollo hardware for its original purpose; after Apollo 17, extra Apollo spacecraft were used in the Skylab and Apollo–Soyuz programs.

Apollo 17 was the first night launch of a U.S. human spaceflight and the final manned launch of a Saturn V rocket. It was a "J-type mission" which included three days on the lunar surface, extended scientific capability, and the third Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). While Evans remained in lunar orbit in the Command/Service Module (CSM), Cernan and Schmitt spent just over three days on the moon in the Taurus–Littrow valley and completed three moonwalks, taking lunar samples and deploying scientific instruments. Evans took scientific measurements and photographs from orbit using a Scientific Instruments Module mounted in the Service Module.

The landing site was chosen with the primary objectives of Apollo 17 in mind: to sample lunar highland material older than the impact that formed Mare Imbrium, and investigate the possibility of relatively new volcanic activity in the same area. Cernan, Evans and Schmitt returned to Earth on December 19 after a 12-day mission.

Apollo 17 is the most recent manned Moon landing and was the last time humans travelled beyond low Earth orbit. It was also the first mission to be commanded by a person with no background as a test pilot, and the first to have no one on board who had been a test pilot; X-15 test pilot Joe Engle lost the lunar module pilot assignment to Schmitt, a scientist. The mission broke several records: the longest moon landing, longest total extravehicular activities (moonwalks), largest lunar sample, and longest time in lunar orbit.[better source needed]

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