Apollo 17, the final lunar mission (so far), was the end of a historic era of human space exploration but promised a return to the Moon.
On Dec. 7, 1972, three men launched on a final mission to the Moon. Making up the crew of Apollo 17 were NASA astronauts Eugene Cernan (commander), Harrison Schmitt (lunar module pilot), and Ronald Evans (command module pilot).
This mission saw many firsts.
Apollo 17 marked the first time a scientist flew into space with the inclusion of geologist Harrison Schmitt. The final lunar mission also saw the greatest total distance traveled by the lunar rover (19 miles), the most tonnage of Moon rocks returned, and holds the record for the longest Apollo flight with a duration of 301 hours, 51 minutes, and 59 seconds.
The end of the last lunar mission culminated in a powerful promise made by Cernan:
“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.”
While we await a return to the Moon, look back at this historic flight through the lens of the last men to walk on the lunar surface, with the photo gallery below.