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50 Years since the final moon mission

The last of NASA’s six successful manned missions to the moon blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida almost five decades ago, just after midnight on 7 December 1972.

May 11, 2022
11 May 2022

The last of NASA’s six successful manned missions to the moon blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida almost five decades ago, just after midnight on 7 December 1972.

The crew onboard Apollo 17 were Commander Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt, who spent 12 and a half days in space, including three days on the lunar surface for Cernan and Schmitt.

We take a look at this significant event, ahead of it’s 50 year anniversary.

Here, Commander Cernan approaches the parked Lunar Roving Vehicle. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre designed, developed and managed the production of the Lunar Roving Vehicle that astronauts used to explore the Moon.
Cernan and Schmitt conducted three spacewalks during their time on the moon. The mission broke several records, including the greatest distance from a spacecraft during an extravehicular activity of any type, which was 7.6kilometres. (NASA)
Lifting off just after midnight on Dec 7th, 1972, the Apollo 17 mission was the final of NASA’s moon-bound manned flights – and the first ever night launch. The massive 111 meter tall rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, lighting up the night sky as it climbed into space.(NASA)

This photograph was taken on 13 Dec. 1972 by Eugene Cernan and shows Harrison Schmitt seated in the Lunar Roving Vehicle. (NASA)

The view of the Earth from Apollo 17 while in transit to the Moon, a photo now known as The Blue Marble (NASA)
A photo taken of Apollo 17 on the lunar surface during a spacewalk. (NASA)
This image is taken during the astronauts third spacewalk, the final of the last Apollo program. Cernan and Schmitt rode the rover northeast of the landing site, here they examined alarge boulder called Tracey’s Rock, after Cernan’s daughter. (NASA)
In addition to their studies on the lunar surface, the Apollo 17 crew performed intensive studies of the Moon from lunar orbit. This is the crew’s Scientific Instrument Module (SIM) that housed the photography and scientific equipment. (NASA)
Earthrise. (NASA)
Five frame montage taken by the Apollo 17 crew during their second orbit of the Moon (NASA Apollo 17 crew)
Splashdown.  On December 19th 1972, The Apollo 17 spacecraft reentered the Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean, about 350 nautical miles southeast of Samoa. Cernan, Evans and Schmitt were retrieved by a rescue helicopter and were taken aboard the USS Ticonderoga 52 minutes later.(NASA)

The Recovery Operation. The Apollo 17 Command Module was hoistered aboard the USS Ticonderoga after it landed in the Pacific Ocean. Today, it is on display at the Space Centre in Houston, Texas. (NASA)
The crew of the Apollo 17 lunar landing mission taken two months before their mission: Commander, Eugene A. Cernan (seated), Command Module pilot Ronald E. Evans (standing on right), and Lunar Module pilot, Harrison H. Schmitt. The Apollo 17 Saturn V Moon rocket is in the background. (NASA)
In May 2022 NASA scientists announced they are now studying lunar surface samples collected 50 years ago during the Apollo 17 mission, the agency’s last crewed mission to the moon. The frozen samples sat untouched in a freezer since 1972. NASA says studying the samples after such a long time will help improve future recovery efforts from the moon and other places in the solar system.(NASA)
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