Apollo 17 was the eleventh manned space mission in the NASA Apollo program. It was the first night launch of a U.S. human spaceflight and the sixth and final lunar landing mission of the Apollo program. The mission was launched on December 7, 1972, and concluded on December 19. As of 2008, it remains the most recent manned Moon landing.
Number in brackets indicates number of spaceflights by each individual prior to and including this mission.
Joe Engle was the originally selected as the LMP, but once it became clear that Apollo 17 would be the last lunar flight, the scientific community pressed NASA to select a scientist-astronaut to land on the Moon. This led to Schmitt, a trained geologist, being removed from the crew of the now cancelled Apollo 18 and replacing Engle on 17.
- Launch mass: 6,455,000 lb (2,923,400 kg)
- Total spacecraft: 102,900 lb (46,700 kg)
- CSM mass: 66,840 lb (30,320 kg), of which CM was 13,140 lb (5960 kg), SM 53,700 lb (24,360 kg)
- LM mass: transposition and docking stage 36,274 lb (16,454 kg), separation for lunar landing 36,771 lb (16,679 kg), ascent stage at liftoff 10,997 lb (4,988 kg)
- Earth orbits: 2 before leaving for Moon, approximately one on return
- Lunar orbits: 75
- Perigee: 104.9 mi (168.9 km)
- Apogee: 106.4 mi (171.3 km)
- Inclination: 28.526°
- Period: 87.83 min
- Perilune: 60.5 mi (97.4 km)
- Apolune: 195.6 mi (314.8 km)
- Inclination: 159.9°
- Period: ~120 min
- Landing Site: 20.19080° N - 30.77168° E or
20° 11' 26.88" N - 30.1° 46' 18.05" E
- Cernan and Schmitt - EVA 1
- Cernan and Schmitt - EVA 2
- Cernan and Schmitt - EVA 3
- Evans (Schmitt - Stand up) - Transearth EVA 4
The splashdown point was 17° 52′ S, 166° 7′ W, 350 nautical miles (650 km) SE of the Samoan Islands and 6.5 km (4 mi) from the recovery ship USS Ticonderoga. Apollo 17 landed approximately 640 meters from its target point.
One of the last two men to set foot on the Moon was also the first scientist-astronaut, geologist Harrison ("Jack") Schmitt. While Evans circled in America, Schmitt and Cernan collected a record 109 kg (240 pounds) of rocks during three Moonwalks. The crew roamed for 34 km (21 miles) through the Taurus-Littrow valley in their rover, discovered orange-colored soil, and left the most comprehensive set of instruments in the ALSEP on the lunar surface. Their mission was the last in the Apollo lunar landing missions. The last 4 Apollo crafts were used for the three Skylab missions and the ASTP, mission in 1975.
Crew members were Eugene Cernan
, commander; Ron Evans
, command module pilot; and Harrison Schmitt
, lunar module pilot.
The landing site for this mission was on the southeastern rim of the Mare Serenitatis, in the southwestern Montes Taurus. This was a dark mantle between three high, steep massifs, in an area known as the Taurus-Littrow region. Pre-mission photographs showed boulders deposited along the bases of the mountains, which could provide bedrock samples. The area also contained a landslide, several impact craters, and some dark craters which could be volcanic.
A J-class mission, featuring the Lunar Rover, they conducted three lunar surface excursions, lasting 7.2, 7.6 and 7.3 hours. The mission returned 110.5 kg (243.6 lb) of samples from the Moon.
The Command module is currently on display at NASA's Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. The lunar module impacted the Moon on December 15 1972 at 06:50:20.8 UT (1:50 AM EST) at 19.96 N, 30.50 E.
On this mission the astronauts took a famous photograph of the earth known as "The Blue Marble", which shows the almost the entire continent of Africa and the continent of Antartica. The other lunar landing missions that photographed the earth shortly after lunar orbit insertion showed the western hemisphere.
- Schmitt, a geologist, was the first (and to date, only) scientist to walk on the Moon.
- Like the astronauts of Apollo 10, 12, 13, and 14 before them, the Apollo 17 crew were recovered in Pacific waters near American Samoa after splashdown, and were flown from the recovery ship to the airport at Tafuna where they were greeted with an enthusiastic (and well practiced) Samoan reception before being flown on to Honolulu, thence to Houston.
- The plaque left on the ladder of the descent stage of Challenger read: Here Man completed his first explorations of the moon. December 1972 AD. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind. The plaque showed two hemispheres of Earth and the near side of the Moon, plus the signatures of Cernan, Evans, Schmitt, and President Nixon.
- Commander Eugene Cernan took a Czechoslovak flag with him to the Moon because his ancestors came from Czechoslovakia. Later he gave it to the Institute of astronomy in Ondrejov (Czech republic).
- Schmitt was originally due to fly on the cancelled Apollo 18 but following pressure from the science community was moved up to LM pilot on Apollo 17 in place of Joe Engle.
- Apollo 17 broke several records set by previous flights, including longest manned lunar landing flight; longest total lunar surface extravehicular activities; largest lunar sample return, and longest time in lunar orbit.
- Apollo 17 was the last manned NASA mission to land on the moon in the 20th century. The next crewed NASA mission to land on the Moon is very tentatively scheduled to occur in 2019 with Orion 15 mission.
"Ah! You see one Earth, you've seen them all."
- – Jack Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot.
"As I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I'd like to just [say] what I believe history will record — that America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."
- – Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 Commander. Last man to walk on the moon, December 14 1972.
"Okay, Jack. Let's get this mother outta here."
- – Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 Commander. Apocryphal last 'informal' words said on the lunar surface, one second before lunar liftoff (does not appear in voice transcripts.)
The circular patch is one of the most detailed of the Apollo series. The official NASA
press release said: "The insignia is dominated by the image of Apollo
, the Greek
sun god. Suspended in space behind the head of Apollo is an American eagle
of contemporary design, the red bars of the eagle's wing represent the bars in the U.S. flag
; the three white stars symbolize the three astronaut crewmen. The background is deep blue space and within it are the Moon
, the planet Saturn
and a spiral galaxy
. The Moon is partially overlaid by the eagle's wing suggesting that this is a celestial body that man has visited and in that sense conquered. The thrust of the eagle and the gaze of Apollo to the right and toward Saturn and the galaxy is meant to imply that man's goals in space will someday include the planets and perhaps the stars. The colors of the emblem are red, white and blue, the colors of the U.S. flag; with the addition of gold, to symbolize the golden age of space flight
that will begin with this Apollo 17 lunar landing. The Apollo image used in this emblem was the Apollo of Belvedere sculpture now in the Vatican Gallery in Rome
. This emblem was designed by artist Robert T. McCall in collaboration with the astronauts." The insignia is surrounded by a light gray band with names of the crew and the words APOLLO XVII.
The Command Module America
is currently on display at Space Center Houston
in Houston, Texas
The Lunar Module Challenger impacted the Moon 15 December 1972 at 06:50:20.8 UT (1:50 AM EST) 19.96 N, 30.50 E.
Depiction in fiction
Portions of the Apollo 17 mission are dramatized in the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon
episode entitled "Le Voyage dans la Lune"
Additionally, there have been fictional astronauts in film, literature and television who have been described as "the last man to walk on the moon," implying they were crew members on Apollo 17. One such character was Steve Austin in the television series The Six Million Dollar Man. In the 1972 novel Cyborg, upon which the series was based, Austin remembers watching the Earth "fall away during Apollo XVII." In an episode of the series, Austin clearly states that he flew on "Apollo 17". Another example is the character of Captain Tanner in the science fiction film Deep Impact.
The mission patch for Apollo 17 was used for the mission patch for the NASA space ship Charybdis in an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" entitled "The Royale".
In WALL-E, the main characters flying away from Earth pass the Moon and the landing site of Apollo 17 (or perhaps one of the other "J" missions: Apollo 15 and 16). Behind the landing site one sees a large sign on the lunar surface exclaiming the future site of a shopping mall.