Apollo 17 was NASA’s last mission to the Moon so far. It featured plenty of exciting firsts, including the first scientist to fly into space (Harrison Schmidt was a geologist). It also returned the most tonnage of Moon rocks of any Apollo mission.
Mission commander Gene Cernan was an early friend to Space Center Houston and lived an inspiring life. Cernan was the 11th person to walk on the moon, but his career left a much wider mark than just those footprints in the lunar soil.
Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17, leading Harrison Schmidt down to the lunar surface in the lander “Challenger.” Their command module, America, is on display in Space Center Houston’s Starship Gallery.
In all, the astronauts brought back 243 pounds (110 kilograms) of lunar samples and spent 75 hours on the surface of the moon.
Cernan’s final words from the moon voiced an idea he championed throughout his life: that he not be the final person to stand on that lunar soil.
“America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow,” Cernan said. “As we leave the moon and Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”