The Last Lunar Footprints | Eugene Cernan

Gene Cernan left the last human footprints on the lunar surface in December 1972. These accessories from his A7-LB spacesuit helped create an isolated personal environment for his extended stay on the Moon. During three EVAs, Cernan and Harrison Schmitt collected rock and soil samples, took photographs, and set up scientific experiments. Lunar dust still coats some of these pieces.

"Nobody can take those footsteps I made on the surface of the Moon away from me."

Walking on the Moon

The variety of EVA activities planned for Apollo astronauts required a versatile suit design that allowed easy movement in both the zero gravity of space and the 1/6-Earth gravity of the Moon.

The Apollo EVA suit incorporated innovative uses of new and existing synthetic materials and had nearly two dozen protective layers. It provided a reasonable amount of comfort during the arduous task of working in a hazardous environment. Hundreds of images taken of astronauts on the Moon made the Apollo EVA suit an iconic symbol of the U.S. space program's success.

Spacesuit Gloves

Pilots have relied on gloves to protect their hands from the cold since the early years of aviation. The use of pressure suits meant that the gloves had to remain flexible under pressure. Gloves made since the first EVAs followed this pattern of providing protection but limited flexibility.

Spacesuit gloves have become the limiting element of an astronaut's work performance outside a spacecraft because hand muscles become extremely fatigued during prolonged work in a pressurized glove. Over the past 50 years, spacesuit glove designers used different approaches to address the conflicting challenges of making gloves that provide adequate comfort, flexibility under pressure, protection, and warmth.

 Design Challenge: Comfort

Manufacturers make spacesuit gloves for each astronaut using molds made from their hands. They can also wear snug comfort gloves to protect their skin from chafing against the rubber pressure bladders.

 Design Challenge: Pressure and Restraint

The pressure layer of a glove acts like an inflated balloon, no matter what its material is. To keep it from expanding, the glove requires a restraint layer to maintain its size and shape.

 Design Challenge: Protection

Outer glove layers provide protection against sunlight, fast traveling particles, and sharp tools. They often extend into gauntlets that cover the wrist connections.

 Design Challenge: Warmth

The temperature can swing as much as 250°C (480°F) between sunlight and shadow in space, so body parts like the hands are most in danger from such changes. Approaches to keeping hands warm include attempts to layer mittens or gloves. Today, designers add interior heating elements for additional warmth.

Coordinating EVA Tasks

Tethers, handholds, foot restraints, headsets, and timekeeping devices play important roles in making an EVA flow efficiently and according to plan.


Filming Spacewalks

Moving and still images of astronauts at work during EVAs have provided engineering and scientific information for analysis after a flight, along with materials for public outreach. Small 16mm movie cameras were initially used to document critical engineering procedures. Photographs provided additional data, and many of those provided to media sources became widely seen around the world.