50th Anniversary of the Final Apollo Moon Landing

The NASA Apollo Program accomplished six successful Moon landings in less than four years. Apollo 11 and 12 landed in 1969, Apollo 14 and 15 in 1971, and Apollo 16 and 17 in 1972.

There were twelve astronauts in total that walked on the Moon. With each additional mission, the astronauts stayed longer and explored more of the lunar surface.

Apollo 17 Launch – Only Apollo Night Launch

Apollo 17, the final Apollo lunar landing mission, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:33 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on December 7, 1972. It was the first, and only night launch of a Saturn V rocket.

The crew consisted of Commander Eugene Cernan, Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, and Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans. The command module was named America, and the lunar module was named Challenger. The landing site for the mission was the Taurus-Littrow valley. The last landing of the Apollo Program took place on December 11, 1972.

The Apollo 17 mission set many records. The first Saturn V launch at night, the longest time spent by astronauts on the lunar surface, 75 hours, the longest total extravehicular activities time, 22 hours, the longest time in lunar orbit and the largest collection of lunar samples returned of any Apollo mission, 111 kilograms. Apollo 17 also carried the first scientist-astronaut to land on the Moon, Geologist Harrison Schmitt.

Lunar Module
Apollo 17 Astronauts

Apollo 17 carried the third and last Lunar Roving Vehicle. The Rover traveled a cumulative distance of approximately 35.9 km, with a total drive time of about four hours and twenty-six minutes. The greatest distance Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt traveled from the lunar module Challenger was about 7.6 km.

The crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on December 19 and was recovered by the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga, ending the Apollo Lunar Exploration Program. No human has yet returned to the moon since December 1972.

Apollo 17 Splashdown

With the launch of the Artemis 1 Mission on November 16, 2022, NASA is finally preparing to send astronauts back to the Moon. If the Artemis 2 mission in 2024 goes as planned, we may see astronauts walking on the lunar surface again as soon as 2026 on the Artemis 3 mission.