The last men on the moon
This liftoff on December 7. 1972, was the beginning
of the end for the Apollo space program
1972 Apollo mission marks 25-year anniversary
December 7, 1997
Web posted at: 10:03 a.m. EST (1503 GMT)
MIAMI (CNN) -- The curtain was coming down on the Apollo
space program at the time, and the final act was a
spectacular one. When Apollo 17 lifted off from Cape
Canaveral, Florida, on December 7, 1972, few at the time
imagined that it would be the last manned lunar mission to
The three-man Apollo team blasted off on a Saturn V rocket
for a mission that would last 12 days, 13 hours and 52
minutes. After coasting in space for three days, Apollo 17
arrived at the Earth's pock-marked neighbor. Astronaut Ronald
E. Evans stayed behind in Apollo's command capsule, while
Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt and Eugene A. Cernan descended to
the lunar surface.
R E L A T E D S I T E:
Apollo 17 Lunar Surface Journal
Apollo 17 mission overview
Rocket: Saturn V
Launch date: December 7, 1972
Crew: Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, Harrison H. "Jack"
Duration: 12 days, 13 hours, 52 minutes
Landing site: Taurus-Littrow, highlands and valley area
The landing site, known as the valley of Taurus-Littrow, was
considered geologist's paradise. Schmitt, who had joined NASA
in 1965 as part of a first group of scientist-astronauts, was
the first geologist on the moon. He and Cernan spent more
time on the lunar surface than any other crew.
Devices in the scientific research program included a type of
cosmic ray detector, an instrument for determining the
composition of the extremely thin lunar atmosphere and a
device for detecting meteorites and ejecta from local
Geological analysis of the moon surface was a key goal of the
mission, and after having spent more than 22 hours outside
the lunar lander vehicle, the crew had gathered 250 pounds of
material for the return trip to Earth.
Reality is like a dream
"America's challenge of today has forged man's
destiny of tomorrow," Cernan said before leaving the lunar
Cernan, reminiscing about the mission, recalled that there
was something unreal about being on the moon.
"I best describe having been there as being in a place where
reality is almost like a dream. Even today, the reality of
having called the moon my home, is almost like a dream. I've
been there. I know I've been there. I can take myself back
instantaneously to that valley," he said.
It was Cernan who delivered a final message before leaving
the surface: "I believe history will record that America's
challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow."
On December 14, Cernan and Schmitt returned to the command
module circling above them. Neither imagined they eventually
would be known as the last men on the moon.
Correspondent John Zarrella contributed to this report.