Apollo 17 Enters Lunar Orbit (10 Dec. 1972) — The crescent Earth rises above the lunar horizon in this photograph taken from the Apollo 17 spacecraft in lunar orbit during National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) final lunar landing mission in the Apollo program. While astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, commander, and Harrison H. Schmitt, lunar module pilot, descended in the Lunar Module (LM) “Challenger” to explore the Taurus-Littrow region of the moon, astronaut Ronald E. Evans, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Modules (CSM) “America” in lunar orbit.

Apollo Veteran: Skip Asteroid, Go to the Moon: It’s 40 years to the day that the final mission to the moon launched. Discovery News speaks with Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist Harrison “Jack” Schmitt about where he thinks the Earth’s only satellite came from and why he thinks a NASA manned asteroid mission is a mistake.

“I think an asteroid is a diversion, if the ultimate goal is to get to Mars, you have a satellite only three days away that has a great deal of science as well as resources. The science of the moon has just been scratched. We’ve hardly explored the moon." – Schmitt

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Apollo 17: Today (December 14, 1972), the last humans to explore the moon blasted off from their Tarrus-Littrow base, as the Ascent Stage of the Lunar Module Challenger ignited at 5:55PM. Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt in Challenger will dock with Ron Evan in the CSM America at 8:10PM. After another two days in lunar orbit, Challenger and her three-man crew will head back home by firing the SPS engine for TEI at 6:35PM on December 16. Ron Evans will perform a Trans-Earth EVA the next day to gather film canisters from the CSM SIM bay. Splashdown is scheduled for afternoon of the 19th.

Today’s images are once again mostly screen caps from the Apollo 17 Real-Time website. First up are three caps from the Lunar Rover camera, directed from Houston by Ed Fendell. The LM Ascent Stage ready for lift-off; a split second after Gene pushed the fire switch; and Challenger soaring up to its rendezvous with America. Next is a view from inside the LM of the Descent Stage (now a launch pad) back at base. The final two images are what makes the Apollo 17 Real-Time website so amazing. First is a capture from the TV broadcast as the LM is  nearing the CSM—and a picture taken at about the exact same time from the LM looking at the CSM. Breathtaking stuff!

Apollo 17 in Real-Time website

I can not stress how amazing the Apollo 17 Real-Time website is. This website wins the Internets for many, many months to come. I have spent too many hours watching and listening to the adventures of Cernan, Schmitt, and Evans. Even the “down times” when there’s just miscellaneous chatter is fascinating. Ben Feist, assisted in the later stages by Chris Bennett, has literally spent years on this project. He beautifully melded together audio transcripts, real audio files, TV footage (a mix of onboard 16mm, television downlink, and ancillary 16mm shot in mission control), and still photos into one easy-to-use, awesome visual and aural treat.

And, there’s more to come: watch Ron’s EVA to the SIM on Thursday and the interview with the crew on Friday. In fact, I found something pretty cool in the audio track that will be shared on Christmas Day.

Tomorrow, we’ll journey back seven years before Apollo 17 to highlight the world’s first rendezvous in space, as Gemini VI-A and VII meet up and station keep.


I was able to meet Harrison “Jack” Schmitt today.  He was one of only twelve men to set foot on the moon.  He flew on the Apollo 17 mission, which was the final launch of the Saturn V, and was launched at night.  What a great honor and his speech was very sharp and detailed, as what you would expect from a scientist.  He will give another lecture later this afternoon and was able to get his autograph.  I tried to play it cool, but probably came across like a bumbling fan-boy.  

I grew up in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center, and the astronauts of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs were heroes to me and I still have much respect for them to this day.  They are aging and will not be with us forever, and it was a great opportunity to meet an astronaut today.  Very excited.  

I told him that we grew up about 170 miles to the south and how Mom and Dad would always say how the sky lit up when they launched.  His response, his view wasn’t as good and didn’t get to see.  He smiled and was a pleasant guy.  Very happy to have met him.

(12 Dec. 1972) — A view of the area at Station 4 (Shorty Crater) showing the now highly-publicized orange soil which the Apollo 17 crew members found on the moon during the second Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. The tripod-like object is the gnomon and photometric chart assembly which is used as a photographic reference to establish local vertical sun angle, scale and lunar color. The gnomon is one of the Apollo lunar geology hand tools. While astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, commander, and Harrison H. Schmitt, lunar module pilot, descended in the Lunar Module (LM) “Challenger” to explore the Taurus-Littrow region of the moon, astronaut Ronald E. Evans, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Modules (CSM) “America” in lunar orbit. Schmitt was the crew man who first spotted the orange soil.


Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt sing while walking on the moon during the last Apollo lunar landing mission.


Apollo 17 in Real-Time - The Last Mission to the Moon is a real-time interactive exploration of the entire Apollo 17 Mission. 

A work in progress, this simulation was put together over several years by space enthusiast Ben Feist, and the result is nothing short of astounding. Mission audio, video,  transcripts, photography and mission-control commentary have all been meticulously synchronized to give you the feeling of being there; watching everything unfold as if happening live, right before your eyes!

You can read more about this amazing project here. And if you enjoyed this awesome resource, please let the incredible @BenFeist know by giving him a shoutout on twitter. :)