Fortieth Anniversary of Apollo 17 Marks Our “Mission to Nowhere”

crew, l to r, Schmidt, Cernan (seated), Evans

Today, we are on a path of decay. We are seeing the book close on five decades of accomplishment as the leader in human space exploration…we are on a mission to nowhere.

~ Eugene Cernan, October 2011, on the destruction of our space program

On Friday December 7th, forty years ago, Apollo 17, the eleventh manned space mission, was launched. It was the final mission to the moon by the United States.

The inspiration and feeling of hope we felt in 1972 is hard to imagine today. There is nothing quite like it to compare it with.

The excitement over moon exploration was probably similar to that felt by people who followed Lindbergh’s flight. My grandmother was at Lindbergh’s ticker tape parade and said she was never so thrilled or emotional in that way before or since. She said everyone loved Charles Lindbergh – he was a hero.

The astronauts who pioneered our space program were not only brilliant, esteemed men of science, they were courageous adventurers traveling to the last frontier.

As he prepared to leave earth, Eugene Cernan, the flight commander, said, “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.” He is the last man to walk on the moon. Also on the mission were Jack Schmidt a geologist and the lunar module pilot and Robert Evans, the command module pilot.

Astronauts Gene Cernin and Harrison Jack Schmidt singing on the moon:

The goal of the mission was:

  • To explore and sample the materials and surface features at Taurus-Littrow
  • To set up and activate experiments on the lunar surface for long-term relay of data
  • To conduct inflight experiments and photographic tasks

Apollo 17 was a lunar geological exploration. The mission returned the greatest number of rock and soil samples of any mission and was the only mission to have a geologist on board.

Interview with Eugene Cernin, raw footage:

Biographies of the astronauts from the Smithsonian and NASA

When you head on out to the Moon, in very short order, and you get a chance to look back at the Earth, that horizon slowly curves around in upon himself, and all of sudden you’re looking at something that is very strange, but yet is very, very familiar, because you’re beginning to see the Earth evolve.
~ Eugene Cernan

The United States is not leading in anything any longer. We can’t even build a good car.

It’s a very tragic end to our civilization unless we turn it around and soon.