Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Apollo 17 (AS-512)

The Last Manned Lunar Landing

Apollo 17 LRV

Apollo 17 Lunar Module

Apollo 17 LRV

Apollo 17 was the last Apollo mission to land men on the Moon. It carried the only trained geologist to walk on the lunar surface, lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt. Compared to previous Apollo missions, Apollo 17 astronauts traversed the greatest distance using the Lunar Roving Vehicle and returned the greatest amount of rock and soil samples. Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, still holds the distinction of being the last man to walk on the Moon, as no humans have visited the Moon since December 14, 1972.

Summary of Events

The successful Apollo 17 manned lunar landing mission was the last in a series of three J-type missions planned for the Apollo Program. The J-type missions have been characterized by extended hardware capability, by a scientific payload larger than the previous G- and H-series missions and by use of a battery powered lunar roving vehicle (LRV). As a result of these additions, the Apollo 17 mission had a duration of 12.6 days, and a time on the lunar surface of 75 hr with a total surface traverse distance of approximately 35 km.

The Saturn V carrying Apollo 17 was launched from NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center at 05:33:00 UT on December 7, 1972 (11:33:00 p.m. CST on December 6, 1972).

View of Apollo 17 Landing SiteThe landing site was on the southeastern rim of Mare Serenitatis in a dark deposit between massif units of the southwestern Montes Taurus.

Scientific objectives included geological surveying and sampling of materials and surface features in a preselected area of the Taurus-Littrow region, deploying and activating surface experiments, and conducting inflight experiments and photographic tasks during lunar orbit and transearth coast.

Lunar orbit insertion, executed at 19:47:23 GMT on December 10, placed the spacecraft into a lunar orbit of 170.0 by 52.6 nautical miles. Following a nominal descent sequence, the spacecraft landed at 19:54:57 GMT on December 11 in a valley at Taurus-Littrow, less than 200 m from the preferred landing point.

The first lunar surface EVA began at 23:54:49 GMT on December 11, with Cernan stepping out of the spacecraft at 00:01:00 GMT on December 12. Deployment of the Apollo lunar-surface experiments package (ALSEP) and the cosmic ray experiment took place during EVA-1. Duration of this EVA was 7 hr 12 min.

Schmitt collects samplesThe second EVA began at 23:28:06 GMT on December 12. Using the LRV, samples from Nansen Crater, Lara Crater and others were collected. Traverses, core samples and trenches were dug at different stations. This EVA lasted 7 hr 37 min.

Lunar Roving VehicleDuring EVA-3, sampling stops were made and traverse gravimeter measurements were taken. Additional explosive packages for the Lunar Seismic Profiling Experiment were also deployed. One of the final science activities was the retrieval of the neutron flux probe from the deep drill core hole. The third EVA ended at 05:40:56 GMT on December 14.

TV View of LM liftoffThe LM ascent stage lifted off the Moon at 22:54:37 GMT on December 14. Lift-off and ascent were recorded by the ground-commanded television assembly on the LRV. After docking with the CSM, the ascent stage was sent back to the lunar surface. Its impact was recorded by the four Apollo 17 geophones and by each ALSEP at the Apollo 12, 14, 15 and 16 landing sites.

From NASA SP-330, Apollo 17 Preliminary Science Report and Apollo 17 Press Kit, Release No: 72-220K