Apollo 17

Apollo 17 was the eleventh manned flight of the Apollo program and the date last manned space flight to the moon.


On August 13, 1971, shortly after the flight of Apollo 15, NASA announced the crew for the Apollo 17 mission. As scheduled, the backup crew of Apollo 14 on the series would have to rise to the main team. So the nomination of Eugene Cernan was no surprise as commander and Ron Evans as a pilot of the Apollo Command Module America. Instead Joe Engle, however, Harrison was 15 assigned as pilot of the lunar module Challenger "Jack" Schmitt from the backup crew of Apollo. Schmitt was one of the science astronauts, NASA had selected in 1965, and none of them even come to use. Under pressure from the NASA scientists Schmitt was given preference over Engle.

As a replacement team initially the complete crew of Apollo 15 was divided: Commander David Scott, the Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden and James Irwin Lunar Module pilot. This was completely replaced as a result of stamp affair in May 1972. Commander and lunar module pilot of Apollo 16, John Young and Charles Duke jumped in, as the pilot of the command module of Apollo 14, Stuart Roosa.

The support team ( support crew ) consisted of the science astronaut Robert Parker and from Gordon Fullerton and Robert Overmyer, who had received their astronaut training at the U.S. Air Force and had switched to NASA after the Air Force had abandoned the plans of its own manned space program.


The individual stages of the Saturn V rocket AS -512 were delivered between October 1970 and June 1972 in Cape Kennedy. The Apollo spacecraft CSM -114 was named America, the Lunar Module LM -12 the name Challenger ( Challenger ).

When connecting speakers ( Capcom ) during the flight were Young, Duke and Roosa of the backup crew, Parker, Fullerton and Overmyer of the support team, Alan Shepard of Apollo 14, Ken Mattingly of Apollo 16, and Joseph Allen, a science astronaut who already at Apollo 15 Capcom had been.

History of the flight


The launch took place at 5:33 UTC on 7 December 1972. Originally, the Apollo 17 mission was to begin at 2:53 UTC. However, the countdown had 30 seconds before the scheduled time to be terminated because one computer failed. This should (S- IVB ) set the the third stage liquid oxygen tank of the Saturn V under pressure. After a delay of more than two hours and forty minutes, the rocket lifted off from the launch pad. It was the only night launch of the Apollo program.

Blue Marble

On the way to the moon the crew succeeded the famous, unique image of a "full Earth" " Blue Marble " facing Africa and the Indian Ocean. At this constellation occurred because the intended landing site of the easternmost of the Apollo program was; the requirement for an inexpensive, not too high -lying sun on the moon, therefore, led to a start, only 34 hours after new moon.

On the Moon

Cernan and Schmitt landed the lunar module " Challenger " north of Mons Vitruvius on a foothill of the Mare Serenitatis. Three EVAs should carry the astronauts on this mission. Equipped with an atomic energy source "Apollo lunar surface experiment package" ( ALSEP ) was built during the first EVA ( " Extravehicular Activity", activity outside the lander ) in the vicinity of the landing site, a little further away than the remaining experiments. The test and measurement systems covered in detail:

  • A heat-flow experiment
  • A gravimeter profile measurement
  • A gravimeter response measurement
  • A meteorite counter
  • Systems for ground electrical measurements
  • Systems for soil mechanics experiments
  • Devices for atmospheric measurements
  • Detectors for cosmic rays
  • A detector and a source of neutrons
  • A transponder for gravity field measurement
  • Active seismometer experiments

In addition, the proven Lunar Roving Vehicle ( moon car) was assembled, which unlike the previous operations did not have defects in the steering. However, the rear right wheel cover broke off partially, so that moon dust flew to the drivers and their vision severely handicapped. Cernan and Schmitt made ​​do with a repair of lunar maps and tape and staples that were diverted from the interior lighting of the lunar module. This EVA lasted seven hours and eleven minutes, with 14.3 kg of rock were collected.

The next day they undertook an expedition to the west to several craters, including the crater Shorty, where Schmitt Orange Soil, orange beads of a glass-like material, found what he commented with audible enthusiasm. After 7 hours and 36 minutes, the EVA was terminated. On this day 34.1 kg material was collected.

The last excursion in the 62 kg rock and drill core samples were recovered, the team led to several craters northeast of the lander and lasted 7 hours and 15 minutes.

Overall, the astronauts put back with their lunar rover 34 km. They climbed several craters and the Taurus Mountains and accumulated in the sum of 110.4 kg of lunar rock for transport back to earth one. It was 3 days and 3 hours spent on the moon, the longest mission of the Apollo series.

On 14 December 1972 at 05:40 UT Cernan was the last to man the lunar surface, which was not re- enter until today of people. He took farewell with the words:

"We leave as we came, and God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. "

"We go as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. "

The transmission of the return from the moon starts with the remote camera succeeded this time perfectly. The training of the two previous missions allowed, despite the signal propagation time of 2.5 seconds and control the panning of the camera so that the ascent stage was almost in the center.

In the meantime, the remaining in lunar orbit Apollo spacecraft explored the lunar surface, in extension of earlier missions with an active radar. The orbit was very similar to that of Apollo 15, so that the data obtained were supplemented and correlated. This has important elements such as the tectonic structure of the lunar crust with high accuracy could be identified. The cameras of the SM also enhanced the footage to the moon.

Return to Earth

After Cernan and Schmitt were again switched in the Apollo spacecraft, the ascent stage of the lunar module was brought specifically to crash. She opened about 10 km distance from the left-behind descent stage. The induced moonquakes was registered by a seismometer at the five other Apollo landing sites.

The installed by the astronauts explosive charges of the active seismic experiment ( ASE) were remotely detonated in the following days.

Also in this return flight was back on an EVA for salvaging footage. Evans spent 66 minutes doing the next America. On December 19, 1972 at 19:24 UT, the Apollo 17 crew splashed with the command module in the Pacific and was salvaged from the USS Ticonderoga.

Whereabouts of the spacecraft

The command module is now in the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.


Harrison Schmitt singing I was strolling on the Moon one day.

Start of the ascent stage of Challenger from the lunar surface

Importance for the Apollo program

The originally planned missions Apollo 18, 19 and 20 were deleted from both political and financial reasons before Apollo 15. With six lunar landings and twelve U.S. astronauts who had left their mark on the Earth's natural satellite, the U.S. has completed a successful program.

The Soviet Union after the other, even later, success never an adequate technique (see N1) realized for a manned moon landing.