Back in December 1972, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt spent 75 hours on the Moon before joining their comrade Ron Evans in lunar orbit for the return to Earth. This was the Apollo 17 mission and was the last time to date that anyone walked on the lunar surface.

Image of Apollo 17 CSM

Apollo 17’s CSM, named America, seen over the Moon’s cratered surface. The mission was launched on 7 December 1972 and returned on 19 December. (Image credit: NASA)

 

The Lunar Module Challenger landed in the Taurus-Littrow valley on the edge of the Mare Serenitatis, where the spectacular scenery dwarfed the spacecraft. Schmidt and Cernan planted a US flag and deployed a set of science experiments before wandering throughout the rugged terrain on their Lunar Rover Vehicle. Carried on the three final Apollo missions, the LRV was a cleverly-designed electric car carried folded up to the Moon. On one of these treks they parked on the rim of a deep crater nicknamed Shorty where they scooped up unusual orange soil, a sign of volcanic action in ancient times.

Image of Harrison Schmitt

Harrison Schmitt with our homeworld (Image credit: Eugene Cernan/NASA)

 

This inspirational image is a fascinating portrait of Harrison “Jack” Schmitt on the Moon. Dr Schmitt was the first scientist to explore another world, and was actually to have landed in Gassendi Crater on the Apollo 18 mission. When cuts to NASA’s budget forced this mission to be cancelled, Schmitt was placed in the Apollo 17 crew instead, thus he became one of the last two men on the Moon. Here he is seen posed with the US flag.  His companion Eugene Cernan is just visible reflected in Schmitt’s visor.

 

Image of Shorty Crater

Lunar Rover at Shorty Crater. Sadly spectacular images like this were little seen by the public who paid for the mission. (image credit: NASA)

 

The Moon’s surface was memorably described by Buzz Aldrin as “Magnificent desolation” and this magnificent shot brings home the truth of this statement. It shows Cernan working by Apollo 17’s Lunar Roving Vehicle on the rim of the small crater nicknamed Shorty, an emissary from Earth in an alien landscape. In the image you can rediscover one of the Apollo 17 mission’s must stunning and unexpected findings: a patch of distinctly orange soil in a sea of grey. This was later determined to be traces of volcanic glass spewed from an eruption when the Moon was still a living world, some 3.5 billion years ago.

Image of schmitt showing face

A man on the Moon. In this still from a video recording Schmitt is holding a rake used to collect small pebbles (Image credit: NASA)

 

Here we see Schmitt again, unusually he has his gold-plated outer visor raised. Images of astronauts with visible faces on EVAs are rare.

Image of distant LM

All looks peaceful now, but this is a landscape shaped by violence on a planetary scale. Around 3.5 billion years ago, a titanic asteroid impact threw up these mountains, in the following hundreds of millions of years great volcanoes poured out lava, flooding the lower-lying valley floors. This was perhaps the last twitches of the dying moon, and all has been quiet since.  How lucky we are to share a living world! (Image credit: NASA)

 

Gazing at his haunting image will make you feel as though you are standing in the Moon’s Taurus Littrow valley. Named by the Apollo 17 crew, Taurus Littrow is located on the mountainous south eastern edge of the Sea of Serenity. It is the relic of the massive asteroid impact about 3.5 billion years ago that created the entire Sea of Serenity. When you are marveling at this image, take the time to look closer to find the trusty Lunar Module Challenger, made tiny by distance, patiently waiting for astronauts Cernan and Schmitt’s return. This delicate study in light and shade of softly rolling lunar hills and boulder-strewn plains reminds us how endlessly fascinating our satellite’s terrain can be.

 

Image of apollo 17 from LRO

Relics of the beginning of humanity’s presence on the Moon. (Image Credit: LRO/NASA)

 

In 2009 NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imaged the Apollo 17 landing site where the LM, LRV and science gear still lie undisturbed since the crew left them there. Apollo 17 marked the end of the beginning of human exploration of the Solar System.

The Earth was lower in the lunar sky over the Apollo 17 landing site than on other missions so it appears in more images. (image credit: NASA)

The Earth was lower in the lunar sky over the Apollo 17 landing site than on other missions so it appears in more images. (image credit: NASA)

 

 

 

 

(Article by Colin Johnston, Science Communicator)


11 Comments

Sunil Kumar · July 12, 2018 at 06:38

Sir
I want to get know
Why the Astronauts are not approached after Apolo 11 and Apolo 17.
As we know that some countries are still sending unmanned spacecraft.

BOB · June 3, 2018 at 15:06

what ecological information was learned from apollo 17

semaj · November 16, 2016 at 15:08

Where is Scmitt’s camera? Was Cernan kneeling or laying down to get this angle? (home world image)

    admin · November 16, 2016 at 15:47

    Dear Semaj, welcome back! The camera was attached to a bracket on Cernan’s chest, and you correctly surmised he had to kneel to get the shot. His reflection is just visible in Schmitt’s visor in our image, but he can be clearly seen if you zoom into the high-resolution original at this link.

    I hope this helps you.

semaj · March 4, 2016 at 12:06

Who took the picture of the CSM over the lunar surface. The LEM would not be at a higher altitude so its not from that and the orientation of the CSM is wrong if in lunar orbit. Please don’t tell me its perspective. What’s going on? Image showing face, what happened to the visor tint and reflection? Amazing photographic skills and all from a chest mounted camera. What are the chances?

    admin · March 4, 2016 at 13:31

    Dear Semaj, the picture was taken from the LM Challenger (surely that is obvious). The LM and CSM were only few metres apart when the picture was taken, not in different orbits, so I do not understand why you see a problem with this image.

    The text of the article actually says “Here we see Schmitt again, unusually he has his gold-plated outer visor raised.” The image of Schmitt is a still from the video taken by the camera on the rover.

jamila · November 8, 2014 at 09:50

MOON moon! i want to come

jamila · November 8, 2014 at 09:47

i love to go on the moon

jamila · July 14, 2014 at 17:06

I saw all the images of neil amstrong.i love them

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