Apollo 17 Launched 40 Years Ago Today
December 7, 2012

Today Marks The Anniversary Of The Apollo 17 Launch 40th Anniversary

[ Watch the Video: What Is The Moon ]

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Today marks the 40th anniversary when astronauts hopped onboard the Apollo 17 spacecraft and made a historic launch towards the moon.

On December 7, 1972, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Ronald E. Evans, along with scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt took flight to begin the sixth Apollo lunar landing.

Initially, the launch was delayed two hours and forty minutes due to an automatic cutoff in the launch sequence at the T-30 second mark in the countdown. The launch event had about 500,000 spectators.

It took the astronauts three-days to reach lunar orbit, after which the crew began preparations for landing in the Taurus-Littrow valley.

The mission's first moonwalk began about four hours after landing on December 11. The first task upon landing was to unload the Lunar Rover Vehicle and other equipment for the scientific research.

During the first day of moon activities, Cernan and Schmitt took off on the first geologic traverse of the mission. The astronauts gathered 31 pounds of samples, took gravimeter measurements, and deployed two explosive packages.

The next day, the astronauts sampled several different types of geologic deposits found in the valley, including orange-colored soil. They completed this mission day in over seven hours.

During the final moonwalk of Apollo 17, and the last time for man to step foot on the moon, Cernan and Schmitt collected 150 pounds of lunar samples and took nine gravimeter measurements.

During the final moments of the moon walk, astronaut Cernan recorded another historic remark from our closest celestial neighbor.

"I'm on the surface; and, as I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I'd like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

The crew returned back to Earth on December 17, and since then no other mission has tried sending man to the moon.

Now, NASA's eyes are no longer set at going back to the moon, but instead look towards taking a trip to Mars for the first time.