Today marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of NASA’s final Apollo mission, which took three astronauts to the moon and back in December 1972.
Apollo 17 was the sixth mission to successfully land astronauts on the moon, bringing the total number of humans who have walked on another world to 12.
Budget cuts brought the Apollo program to an end, and space-exploration efforts shifted to missions to low-Earth orbit, such as the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.
Five decades later, several space agencies are now developing new crewed missions to return to the moon, and to go on to Mars.
Collected below are images of Apollo 17 and its astronaut crew—Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt.
- Astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, commander, makes a short checkout of the Lunar Roving Vehicle during the early part of the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site on December 11, 1972. This photograph was taken by scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt, lunar-module pilot. #NASA
- Eugene Cernan poses with his wife, Barbara, and their daughter, Teresa, in front of a training version of the lunar lander, on August 4, 1972. Dannette Sanders, a friend of Teresa’s, is on the left. #NASA
- Astronauts Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (left) and Eugene Cernan practice taking geological samples at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in preparation for NASA’s scheduled Apollo 17 lunar landing mission, on August 28, 1972. #Space Frontiers / Getty
- Astronauts Eugene Cernan (left), Ron Evans (center), and Jack Schmitt review mission plans on December 3, 1972. #NASA
- Liftoff of the Apollo 17 Saturn V Moon Rocket from Launch Complex 39 at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, at 12:33 a.m. on December 7, 1972. Apollo 17 was the first night launch of a Saturn V rocket. #NASA
- On the way to the moon, a view of the lunar module from the Apollo 17 spacecraft during transposition/docking maneuvers. The white dots surrounding the lunar module are debris from the Saturn S-IVB-stage separation. #NASA
- This view of Earth was seen by the Apollo 17 crew as they traveled toward the moon on December 7, 1972. #NASA
- A portrait of astronaut Jack Schmitt in sunglasses during the outbound trip #NASA
- An inspection of the moon’s surface from lunar orbit #NASA
- The Lunar Lander, seen shortly after undocking and preparing for descent to the moon’s surface #NASA
- Shortly after landing, Eugene Cernan takes the Lunar Rover out for a short spin beside the Lunar Lander (at right) in the Taurus–Littrow valley. #NASA
- Astronaut Harrison Schmitt is photographed next to the flag of the United States, beneath the distant Earth, during an EVA at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. #NASA
- Harrison Schmitt chips samples from a large boulder during the first Apollo 17 EVA on December 11, 1972, in this black-and-white reproduction taken from a color television transmission made by the TV camera mounted on the Lunar Rover. #NASA
- A wide-angle view of the Apollo 17 landing site, seen on December 10, 1972. To the left, in the background, is the lunar module. To the right is the lunar rover. #NASA
- Astronaut Harrison Schmitt poses beside the flag at the landing site. #NASA
- One of the Apollo 17 crew photographed this view during an EVA, featuring the lunar rover near a rocky field, bathed in sunshine. #NASA
- Eugene Cernan kneels over a site, extracting a core sample. Cernan later placed a neutron probe into the hole, measuring properties of the lunar surface. #NASA
- Harrison Schmitt, photographed beneath the Earth during an EVA #NASA
- Harrison Schmitt heads toward the rover after collecting samples at Tracy’s Rock. #NASA
- A view of the lunar lander named “Challenger,” at the start of the mission’s second EVA #NASA
- Harrison Schmitt is photographed jumping into the seat of the lunar rover at Station 9 (Van Serg Crater) during the third EVA, on December 13, 1972. #NASA
- A distant view of the lunar rover from Station 8 #NASA
- A distant view of the lunar lander (center), seen from Station 6, nearly two miles away, through a 500mm camera lens #NASA
- A view of the landing site, seen through a window on the lunar lander, after an EVA #NASA
- Harrison Schmitt, seen inside the lunar module shortly after the last EVA #NASA
- Apollo 17’s command module, photographed from the lunar module at rendezvous #NASA
- A view, from orbit, of craters and features on the moon’s Mare Imbrium #NASA
- Astronaut Harrison Schmitt took this photograph of his two fellow crew members aboard the Apollo 17 spacecraft. Commander Eugene Cernan (left), and command module pilot Ronald Evans pose in zero-gravity conditions. #NASA
- The crescent Earth rises above the lunar horizon, observed by the Apollo 17 crew. #NASA
- Astronaut Ronald Evans is photographed performing an EVA during the Apollo 17 spacecraft’s trans-Earth coast on December 17, 1972. Evans was retrieving film cassettes from the lunar sounder, mapping camera, and panoramic camera. #NASA
- A camera aboard a helicopter captures the moment of splashdown for Apollo 17, successfully returning to Earth after a 12-and-a-half-day trip to the moon and back. #
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