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 the United States' Apollo lunar landing program, and was the sixth and last landing of humans on the Moon. Launched at 12:33 AM Eastern Standard Time (EST) on December 7, 1972, with a three-member crew consisting 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 mission. After Apollo 17, extra Apollo spacecraft were used in the Skylab and Apollo–Soyuz Test Project programs.

Apollo 17 was the sixth Apollo lunar landing, the first night launch of a U.S. human spaceflight and the final crewed launch of a Saturn V rocket. It was a "J-type mission," which included a three-day lunar surface stay, extended scientific capability, and the third Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). While Evans remained in lunar orbit above in the Command/Service Module (CSM). Cernan and Schmitt spent just over three days on the lunar surface in the Taurus-Littrow valley, conducting three periods of extra-vehicular activity, or moonwalks, during which they collected lunar samples and deployed scientific instruments. Cernan, Evans, and Schmitt returned to Earth on December 19 after an approximately 12-day mission.

The decision to land in the Taurus-Littrow valley was made with the primary objectives for Apollo 17 in mind: to sample lunar highland material older than the impact that formed Mare Imbrium and investigating the possibility of relatively young volcanic activity in the same vicinity. Taurus-Littrow was selected with the prospects of finding highland material in the valley's north and south walls and the possibility that several craters in the valley surrounded by dark material could be linked to volcanic activity.

Apollo 17 also broke several records set by previous flights, including the longest manned lunar landing flight; the longest total lunar surface extravehicular activities; the largest lunar sample return, and the longest time in lunar orbit.

As of June 2014[update], Apollo 17 remains the most recent manned Moon landing and also the last time humans have travelled beyond low Earth orbit.

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