This week, we have facts about the last men on the moon. Thirty years ago, Apollo 17 left the lunar surface and, so far, no one's gone back.
CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.
[MUSIC: The Police, “Walking on the Moon” ZENYATTA MONDATTA (A&M, 1990)]
CURWOOD: Thirty years ago this week, Eugene Cernan and Jack Schmitt left the last human footprints on the surface of the moon. The astronauts of Apollo 17 had just completed the sixth moon landing.
The only scientist among the 12 people who have walked on the moon is Jack Schmitt. He is a geologist and, as it turns out, was the right man for the job when he literally stumbled across some strange orange soil. He scooped up samples of the lunar dirt to bring back to earth. At first, NASA thought it might be iron oxidized by water, and water meant there could be life on the moon. But geologists later determined the grit was cooled lava from a volcanic explosion on the moon about three and a half billion years before Schmitt and Cernan paid their visit.
During Apollo 17’s three-day stay the crew set a number of space records. They traveled 21 miles on the lunar surface and collected 242 pounds of moon rocks. But despite the overall success of the Apollo missions, media coverage and public interest in lunar landings was waning. America had already won the space race and at the time ending the war in Vietnam seemed a more pressing national concern. So when they blasted off, Schmitt and Cernan had no idea they might be the last men on the moon
CERNAN (TRANSMISSION FROM MOON): We leave as we came, and God-willing as we shall return, with faith and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.
CURWOOD: NASA still has no immediate plans to return people to the moon but the space agency is considering it as a training ground for future missions to the planet Mars.
And for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.
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