December 11, 2012
Apollo 17: Stepping Foot On The Moon For The Last Time
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Forty years ago, man stepped out onto the surface of the moon for the last time during the Apollo 17 mission.
On December 11, 1972, astronauts unloaded the lunar rover for a drive around on the moon's surface, beginning the end of the final Apollo missions.
Astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, commander of the mission, drove around the rover during the first extravehicular activity.
A photo released by NASA of the rover shows Cernan driving around on the moon in a stripped down rover. Astronauts later loaded up equipment onto the rover, including the ground-controlled television assembly, the lunar communications relay unit, hi-gain antenna, low-gain antenna, aft tool pallet, lunar tools and scientific gear.
Scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt joined Cernan on the lunar surface for the expeditions, and aboard the lunar rover. The two men drove around on the first day of activities, exploring our closest celestial neighbor.
Astronaut Ronald E. Evans stayed behind as the command module pilot, remaining with the Command and Service Modules America in lunar orbit.
Although man has not gone back to the moon since this mission, scientists and space agencies have not forgotten it.
Currently, NASA has twin space probes orbiting the moon to gain a better understanding of its gravity field. However, this mission is about to find its end as well.
NASA will be hosting a media teleconference on Thursday to provide an overview of events leading up to the spacecraft being commanded to impact the moon's surface next week. The two spacecraft are running low on fuel, and have been orbiting the moon since New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.