“America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow… We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.” — Eugene Cernan, American Astronaut and Commander of Apollo 17 Mission —
During the final mission of the United States' lunar landing program, the astronauts of Apollo 17 walked on the surface of the Moon 47 years ago today — and man has not returned since. The huge, 363-foot tall spacecraft launched just after midnight on December 7, 1972 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with a three-man crew: Commander Eugene Cernan, Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, and Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans. A mission including three moonwalks, the Apollo 17 set several spaceflight records — Cernan and Schmitt logged the longest total excursion time on the lunar surface at 22 hours, 5 minutes, 4 seconds. In addition, a record-breaking 253 pounds of rock and soil samples were collected and returned to NASA for scientific research. While man has not returned to the Moon in nearly 50 years, the recent creation of the Space Force as the sixth military service branch of the United States promises a new age of interplanetary exploration.