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Apollo 17: The Last Time Humans Walked on the Moon, 50 Years Ago

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.

  • An astronaut drives a lunar rover across the surface of the moon toward the photographer.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
  • An astronaut in a space suit stands with his wife and two girls in front of a mock-up of a lunar lander.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
  • Two astronauts in space suits and helmets work with tools outside.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
  • Three men sit at a table covered in notebooks and maps, having a discussion.Astronauts Eugene Cernan (left), Ron Evans (center), and Jack Schmitt review mission plans on December 3, 1972. #NASA
  • A large rocket launches into the night sky, sending up plumes of smoke.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
  • A view of a lunar lander in space, surrounded by tiny bits of debris.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
  • A view of the entire Earth, against the black backdrop of spaceThis view of Earth was seen by the Apollo 17 crew as they traveled toward the moon on December 7, 1972. #NASA
  • A close view of a man wearing sunglasses, captured sidewaysA portrait of astronaut Jack Schmitt in sunglasses during the outbound trip #NASA
  • An orbital view of the gray and hilly surface of the moonAn inspection of the moon’s surface from lunar orbit #NASA
  • A view of a lunar lander floating nearby in spaceThe Lunar Lander, seen shortly after undocking and preparing for descent to the moon’s surface #NASA
  • An astronaut drives a rover on the moon beside a lunar lander.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
  • An upward-looking view of an astronaut standing beside an American flag, with the Earth in the distance in spaceAstronaut 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
  • A grainy television image of an astronaut chipping away at a large boulder on the moonHarrison 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, including the lunar lander, rover, an astronaut, and several scientific instrumentsA 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
  • An astronaut stands beside an American flag on the moon.Astronaut Harrison Schmitt poses beside the flag at the landing site. #NASA
  • A lunar rover sits on a plain, beside a rocky field on the moon.One of the Apollo 17 crew photographed this view during an EVA, featuring the lunar rover near a rocky field, bathed in sunshine. #NASA
  • An astronaut kneels on a flat space on the moon, working on a scientific experiment.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
  • A view, directed upward, of a suited astronaut and a distant Earth in spaceHarrison Schmitt, photographed beneath the Earth during an EVA #NASA
  • An astronaut walks beside a huge boulder on the moon's surface.Harrison Schmitt heads toward the rover after collecting samples at Tracy’s Rock. #NASA
  • A view of a lunar lander on the moonA view of the lunar lander named “Challenger,” at the start of the mission’s second EVA #NASA
  • An astronaut jumps into the seat of a lunar rover on the moon.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 a lunar rover on the moonA distant view of the lunar rover from Station 8 #NASA
  • A distant view of a lunar lander on a broad and empty moonscapeA 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, including the flag and rover, captured from slightly aboveA view of the landing site, seen through a window on the lunar lander, after an EVA #NASA
  • An astronaut poses inside a spacecraft.Harrison Schmitt, seen inside the lunar module shortly after the last EVA #NASA
  • A spacecraft in orbit around the moonApollo 17’s command module, photographed from the lunar module at rendezvous #NASA
  • A view, from orbit, of craters and features on the moonA view, from orbit, of craters and features on the moon’s Mare Imbrium #NASA
  • Two astronauts pose for a photo inside a spacecraft. One appears to be upside down.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.The crescent Earth rises above the lunar horizon, observed by the Apollo 17 crew. #NASA
  • A suited astronaut works outside a spacecraft in space.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 view from a helicopter down on three large parachutes and the crew capsule as it splashes into the oceanA 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. #
Michael Lynch
Author: Michael Lynch

Raised on the Space Coast, I want to keep North Brevard informed of what's happening. Send Tips / Story Ideas to TitusvilleMedia@gmail.com

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