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Apollo 17 was the eleventh manned space mission in the NASAmarker Apollo program. It was the first night launch of a U.S.marker human spaceflight and the sixth and final lunar landing mission of the Apollo program. The mission was launched at 12:33 a.m. EST on December 7, 1972, and concluded on December 19. It remains the most recent manned moon landing and the most recent manned flight beyond low Earth orbit. It also broke several records set by previous flights, including longest manned lunar landing flight; longest total lunar surface extravehicular activities; largest lunar sample return, and longest time in lunar orbit.


Joe Engle was originally selected as the LMP, but once it became clear that Apollo 17 would be the last lunar flight, the scientific community pressed NASA to select a scientist-astronaut to land on the Moon. This led to Schmitt, a trained geologist, being removed from the crew of the now cancelled Apollo 18 and replacing Engle on 17.

Backup crew



The Apollo 15 prime crew received the backup assignment since this was to be the last lunar mission and the backup crew would not rotate to another mission. However, when the Apollo 15 postage stamp incident became public in early 1972 the crew was reprimanded by NASA and the Air Force (they were active duty officers). Director of Flight Crew Operations Deke Slayton removed them from flight status and replaced them with Young and Duke from the Apollo 16 prime crew and Roosa from the Apollo 14 prime and Apollo 16 backup crews.

Support crew

Mission parameters

  • Mass:
    • Launch mass:
    • Total spacecraft:
      • CSM mass: , of which CM was , SM
      • LM mass: transposition and docking stage , separation for lunar landing , ascent stage at liftoff
  • Earth orbits: 2 before leaving for Moon, approximately one on return
  • Lunar orbits: 75
  • Perigee:
  • Apogee:
  • Inclination: 28.526°
  • Period: 87.83 min

20° 11' 26.88" N - 30.1° 46' 18.05" E


  • Undocked: December 11, 1972 - 17:20:56 UTC
  • Docked: December 15, 1972 - 01:10:15 UTC


  • Cernan and Schmitt - EVA 1
    • EVA 1 Start: December 11, 1972, 23:54:49 UTC
    • EVA 1 End: December 12 07:06:42 UTC
    • Duration: 7 hours, 11 minutes, 53 seconds

  • Cernan and Schmitt - EVA 2
    • EVA 2 Start: December 12, 1972, 23:28:06 UTC
    • EVA 2 End: December 13 07:05:02 UTC
    • Duration: 7 hours, 36 minutes, 56 seconds

  • Cernan and Schmitt - EVA 3
    • EVA 3 Start: December 13, 1972, 22:25:48 UTC
    • EVA 3 End: December 14 05:40:56 UTC
    • Duration: 7 hours, 15 minutes, 08 seconds

  • Evans (Schmitt - Stand up) - Transearth EVA 4
    • EVA 4 Start: December 17, 1972, 20:27:40 UTC
    • EVA 4 End: December 17 21:33:24 UTC
    • Duration: 1 hour, 05 minutes, 44 seconds

The splashdown point was 17° 52′ S, 166° 7′ W, SE of the Samoan Islands and from the recovery ship USS Ticonderoga. Apollo 17 landed approximately 640 meters from its target point.

Mission highlights

Schmitt stands next to a large boulder during EVA 3
Command Module pilot Ron Evans performs a trans-earth EVA to retrieve film from the Apollo 17 SIM Bay camera.
Apollo 17 recovery operations.


During the transit to the Moon, the astronauts took a famous photograph of the earth known as "The Blue Marble", which shows almost the entire continent of Africa and the continent of Antarctica. The other lunar landing missions that photographed the earth shortly after lunar orbit insertion showed the western hemisphere.


The landing site for this mission was on the southeastern rim of the Mare Serenitatismarker, in the southwestern Montes Taurus. This was a dark mantle between three high, steep massifs, in an area known as the Taurus-Littrow region. Pre-mission photographs showed boulders deposited along the bases of the mountains, which could provide bedrock samples. The area also contained a landslide, several impact craters, and some dark craters which could be volcanic.


Apollo 17 was a J-class mission. The crew used a Lunar Rover and conducted three lunar surface excursions, lasting 7.2, 7.6 and 7.3 hours. The mission returned of samples from the Moon.

Schmitt and Cernan collected a record of rocks during three Moonwalks. The crew roamed for through the Taurus-Littrow valley in their rover, discovered orange-colored soil, and left the most comprehensive set of instruments in the ALSEP on the lunar surface. Their mission was the last in the Apollo lunar landing missions. The last 4 Apollo craft were used for the three Skylab missions and the ASTP mission in 1975.


Eugene Cernan is, to date, the last man to have walked on the Moon. Just before he returned to the Lunar Module for the last time, he said,
"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."

Although Cernan's last words before liftoff have been widely quoted as the colorful "Let's get this mother out of here", this is not supported by the transcript and audio recordings of the LM crew voices.

A plaque left on the ladder of the descent stage of Challenger reads: "Here Man completed his first explorations of the moon. December 1972 AD. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind". The plaque showed two hemispheres of Earth and the near side of the Moon, plus the signatures of Cernan, Evans, Schmitt, and President Nixon.


Like the astronauts of Apollo 10, 12, 13, and 14 before them, the Apollo 17 crew were recovered in Pacificmarker waters near American Samoamarker after splashdown. The recovery operation was performed by US Navy helicopter squadron HC-1, with Commander Edward E Dahill III as prime recovery pilot flying helicopter 001. Commander Dahill flew the astronauts to the nearby recovery ship USS Ticonderoga. They were subsequently flown from the recovery ship to the airport at Tafunamarker where they were greeted with an enthusiastic (and well practiced) Samoan reception before being flown on to Honolulumarker, thence to Houston.

Commander Eugene Cernan had taken a Czechoslovak flag with him to the Moon because his ancestors came from Czechoslovakiamarker. Later he gave it to the Institute of Astronomy in Ondrejov (now Czech Republicmarker).

Mission insignia

Robbins Medallion from Apollo 17
The circular patch is one of the most detailed of the Apollo series. The official NASAmarker press release said: "The insignia is dominated by the image of Apollo, the Greek sun god. Suspended in space behind the head of Apollo is an American eagle of contemporary design, the red bars of the eagle's wing represent the bars in the U.S. flag; the three white stars symbolize the three astronaut crewmen. The background is deep blue space and within it are the Moon, the planet Saturn and a spiral galaxy or nebula. The Moon is partially overlaid by the eagle's wing suggesting that this is a celestial body that man has visited and in that sense conquered. The thrust of the eagle and the gaze of Apollo to the right and toward Saturn and the galaxy is meant to imply that man's goals in space will someday include the planets and perhaps the stars. The colors of the emblem are red, white and blue, the colors of the U.S. flag; with the addition of gold, to symbolize the golden age of space flight that will begin with this Apollo 17 lunar landing. The Apollo image used in this emblem was the Apollo of Belvedere sculpture now in the Vatican Gallery in Romemarker. This emblem was designed by artist Robert T. McCall in collaboration with the astronauts." The insignia is surrounded by a light gray band with names of the crew and the words APOLLO XVII.
A model of the UV spectrometer used to take the first accurate measurements of the constituents of the moon's atmosphere.

Spacecraft locations

The command module America is currently on display at Space Center Houstonmarker in Houston, Texasmarker.

The ascent stage of lunar module Challenger impacted the Moon December 15, 1972 at 06:50:20.8 UT (1:50 AM EST), at . The descent stage remains on the moon at the landing site, .


image:Ap17 schmitt falls.ogg|Astronaut Harrison Schmitt falls while on a moonwalkimage:Ap17 strolling.ogg|Harrison Schmitt sings I was strolling on the Moon one dayimage:Ap17-ascent.ogg|Apollo 17's Lunar Module blasts off and leaves the moon

Depiction in fiction

Portions of the Apollo 17 mission are dramatized in the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon episode entitled "Le Voyage dans la Lune".

The novel Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston opens with a depiction of the Apollo 17 moonwalks using quotes taken from the official mission transcript.

Additionally, there have been fictional astronauts in film, literature and television who have been described as "the last man to walk on the moon," implying they were crew members on Apollo 17. One such character was Steve Austin in the television series The Six Million Dollar Man. In the 1972 novel Cyborg, upon which the series was based, Austin remembers watching the Earth "fall away during Apollo XVII." In an episode of the series, Austin clearly states that he flew on "Apollo 17". Another example is the character of Captain Tanner played by Robert Duvall in the science fiction film Deep Impact.

The mission patch for Apollo 17 was used for the mission patch for the NASA space ship Charybdis in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled "The Royale".

See also


  1. Donald K. Slayton, "Deke!" (New York: Forge, 1994), 279
  2. Portfolio from Apollo - TIME
  3. Caidin, Martin: Cyborg, page 15. Warner Paperback Library, 1972.

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