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pollo 17 is remembered as the most important mission in the history of space exploration. This mission proved that humanity has no limits as we can achieve great things. Exactly 50 years ago, on December 12, 1972, the Apollo 17 crew landed and walked on the moon. Since then, no other human has visited the moon. In July 1969, the Apollo 11 Moon landing represented a significant achievement in engineering, science, and human endeavor. The entire world had been waiting for that moment.

Six further missions to the Moon were made after Apollo 11, five of which resulted in successful landings. There were a total of 12 men who set foot on the moon. However, more Apollo missions were shelved in 1970. For an undetermined period of time, Apollo 17 was the final human lunar mission. Money was a major factor in this. Getting to the Moon was quite expensive and still is.

Another reason no space agency wants to go to the moon is that there is nothing really interesting happening there. They would rather use their assets to explore other planets which have not yet been explored or that offer some promising resources.

Apollo 17

The Apollo program came to an end with Apollo 17, which sent the 11th and 12th astronauts to the moon’s surface. By the time the mission took off on December 7, 1972, the government had switched its attention away from space research and toward the Vietnam War. Even though three additional flights were initially scheduled, these and many other issues led to the program’s end.

Saturn V rocket carrying Apollo 17 moving to pad 39A (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The first mission with a scientist on board was Apollo 17. Under intense pressure from the National Academy of Sciences, which was concerned that only test pilots would have the opportunity to walk on the moon, geologist Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was one of the first six scientist-astronauts chosen in 1965.

The Apollo missions also saw one of the best rockets in the history of space exploration, Saturn V. At NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the Saturn V was created. It was one of three Saturn rocket models that NASA produced. Humans were sent into Earth orbit with the Saturn I (1) and IB (1b), two smaller rockets. They were launched to the moon from Earth orbit by the Saturn V. In 1967, the initial Saturn V was launched. Its name was Apollo 4. In 1968, Apollo 6 was released. These two rockets were fired without any crew members. These rocket launches served to test the Saturn V.

Apollo 8 was the first Saturn V to launch with a crew. The astronauts on this mission orbited the moon but did not touch down. The Apollo moon lander was tested by the crew of Apollo 9 by flying it in Earth orbit without touching down. The lunar lander was sent to the moon by the Saturn V rocket during Apollo 10. The lander was tested in orbit by the crew, but it was not placed on the moon. The first mission to set foot on the moon was Apollo 11 in 1969. Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 astronauts were able to land on the moon thanks to Saturn V rockets.

The crew of Apollo 13 was sent into space by the Saturn V, however they were unable to touch down on the moon due to an issue. The Apollo spacecraft, not the Saturn V, was the source of the issue. Without a crew, the final Saturn V was launched in 1973. The Skylab space station was sent into orbit using it.

The choice of Apollo 17’s target, the Taurus-Littrow lunar valley, was carefully considered given the following Apollo missions’ emphasis on science and the presence of a geologist on board. The decision was skewed toward the site by the geologic diversity of that region. Shorty Crater, which is thought to have traces of previous volcanic eruptions, and a number of large rocks were points of interest for geologists at Taurus-Littrow.

Apollo 17 landing site, labeled (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Mission Former U.S. Navy pilot Cmdr. Cernan has encountered several difficulties in space. He performed a spacewalk on his first voyage, Gemini 9, in 1966, which left him weary since there weren’t enough handholds for him to complete his task in microgravity. On his second voyage, Apollo 10, in 1969, as Cernan and crewmate Tom Stafford were practicing their descent to the surface, the lunar module abruptly rotated unexpectedly. Being an experienced pilot, he was confident in his ability to lead his crew on the most difficult Apollo mission to date.

A small technical issue was caused by a tank that wasn’t pressurized when it should have delayed the launch by nearly three hours. However, the crew launched on December 7, 1972, after the problem had been addressed. Three days later, Evans remained aboard the command module, America, while Cernan and Schmitt safely descended to the lunar surface with the lunar module Challenger.

NASA Apollo 17 Lunar Roving Vehicle (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The first significant obstacle for Cernan and Schmitt was when Cernan unintentionally damaged a wheel fender on their lunar rover. After that, when the astronauts drove across the moon’s surface, abrasive moon grit rained down on them. Cernan joked that he would like a “mending prize” as he did a partial repair with some duct tape. The following day, he and Schmitt fixed the fender by taping some maps in its place.

The astronauts from Apollo 17 performed extravehicular activities on the moon for a record-breaking 22 hours. In the lunar rover, the astronauts traveled around 21 miles (34 km) and returned with 108 kilos (238 lbs) of lunar rocks.
While the upper stage of the lunar module Challenger’s upper stage made a scheduled collision with the moon, the command module America is housed in Space Center Houston, close to NASA Johnson Space Center.

Although this crew was the last to visit the moon to far, NASA aims to send additional crews there during the next ten years.

Vice President Mike Pence set a lofty goal in 2019 to send astronauts to the lunar south pole by 2024.

The Appolo series of missions was a great period where technology and we as humans have evolved. Despite how boring the Moon may be in comparison to other planets, NASA, as well as other space agencies, have great interest and hope that they will one day manage to create a human civilization on the moon. This would mean turning Apollo’s legacy into the future of space exploration.

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