On December 11, 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts landed on the lunar surface in a region called the Taurus-Littrow valley. The two astronauts who made this historic moon landing include Mission Commander Gene Cernan, and module pilot Harrison Schmitt.
While Ronald Evans, the command module pilot arrived at the lunar orbit with the astronauts, he never got the opportunity to descend to the lunar surface as he piloted the command module around the moon while waiting for his colleagues to complete their mission EVA. How did the astronauts accomplish the Apollo 17 mission? Continue reading to find out.
How Apollo 17 astronauts reached the moon 51 years ago
On December 7, the Apollo 17 crew was launched for the last crewed moon mission atop the Saturn V rocket. The spacecraft carrying the astronauts traveled for 3 days to arrive in the lunar orbit on Dec. 10, 1972. Upon arrival, Cernan and Schmitt entered the lunar lander module named Challenger and prepared for descent to the moon’s surface.
The command module and the service module later separated and the two astronauts looked forward to a safe touchdown. At about 2 hours and 34 minutes after the separation, the Challenger safely landed the crew on the lunar surface. The module landed the crew in the Taurus-Littrow valley of the moon.
Cernan and Schmitt spent a total of 75 hours on the lunar surface. During this period, the crew performed three extra-vehicular activities which lasted for about 22 hours and 4 minutes. They also deployed scientific instruments on the Moon. Cernan and Schmitt later discovered orange soil at Shorty crater which was later proved to be volcanic in origin during early Moon’s history.
After completing the mission goals on the moon, Schmitt first the lunar surface and walked into the lunar module. Cernan followed him shortly, making him the last human to ever step foot on the moon to date. On Dec. 16, 1972, the Apollo 17 crew left the lunar orbit and commenced their return trip to Earth. The three astronauts safely splashed down on Earth on Dec. 19, 1972.
Sending Humans to the Moon in the 21st Century
After Apollo 17 astronauts left the lunar surface in 1972, no human has ever reached the moon. However, NASA is about to rewrite human exploration goals on Mars starting with its Artemis 3 mission. The American space agency commenced with its Artemis space program to return humans to the moon and possibly establish a permanent human presence on our celestial neighbor.
NASA has successfully completed its Artemis 1 program. The agency is also getting ready to accomplish its Artemis 2 program in 2024. In late 2025 or early 2026, NASA will make the first historic moon landing mission aboard a SpaceX starship. This crewed landing will inspire the American space agency to commence with other futuristic plans for building lunar infrastructures on the moon.
Unlike Apollo crewed missions, Artemi’s lunar mission will open the pathway for permanent human presence on the moon. NASA is also partnering with other international agencies to build a Lunar Gateway space station.
This futuristic space station around the moon will make it much easier to assess the lunar surface from the moon’s orbit. With the basic technological progress made by NASA, humanity will experience technological breakthroughs on the moon soon.