Eugene Cernan

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Last Men on the Moon

On December 19 1972—41 years ago today—Apollo 17 splashed back down on Earth in the South Pacific ocean. It was the last of six lunar landings during the Apollo program, and its return to Earth marked the program’s end. Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent three days exploring the Taurus-Littrow lunar valley and taking samples of moon rock and soil–Schmitt was the first geologist and professional scientist on a NASA mission, and he was also the twelfth and final man to walk on the moon. After their lunar module, the Challenger, lifted off the surface of the moon, a statement from the White House was radioed to the astronauts: "We are conscious not of what we leave behind, but of what lies before us. This may be the last time in this century that men will walk on the moon, but space exploration will continue, the benefits of space exploration will continue, and there will be new dreams to pursue, based upon what we have learned.“ No human has set foot on another celestial body for 41 years.

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Earth as seen by astronauts Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmidt from Apollo 17.

The Apollo 17 mission, which took place December 7-19, 1972, was the last of the missions to the Moon carried out in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald B. Evans, and Harrison H. Schmitt undertook the mission, which lasted 12 days, 13 hours, and 52 minutes and included a Lunar surface stay of 75 hours. The Lunar landing site was the highlands and valley area of Taurus-Littrow (20º 16’ north latitude, 30º 77’ east longitude). The mission gathered 110.4 kilograms of Lunar material and set up NASA’s sixth automated research station. This photograph shows the Earth as it would have appeared to the astronauts on their journey home.

Earth, as seen by astronauts Eugen Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmidt from Apollo 17.

On December 19, 1972 the astronauts of Apollo 17 landed safely in the Pacific.  It was the last of the Apollo lunar manned missions.

During the mission, the astronauts collected a lunar sample which Cernan described as, “a rock composed of many fragments, of many sizes, and many shapes, probably from all parts of the Moon, perhaps billions of years old.”

Following Apollo 17’s return to Earth, President Nixon asked that fragments of the rock be sent as gifts to other nations and each U.S. state.  Almost 300 “Goodwill Moon Rocks” were distributed.  Many of these have gone missing and efforts continue to locate the lost Goodwill Moon Rocks. 

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The Last Man on the Moon: Great 30 minute interview with Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan

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NASA releases audio recording of when Apollo 10 heard music on the other side of the moon

For the first time ever, NASA has released audio recordings from the crew of the 1969 Apollo 10 mission that conclusively reveal that astronauts Eugene Cernan and John Young heard bizarre music come over the radio as their spacecraft passed the far side of the moon. How scientists explain the phenomenon.

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