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December 11, 1972: last man on the Moon

It was the Apollo 17 mission

First is always the most important, but also the last one should not be underestimated in certain circumstances: this speech fits perfectly for an anniversary that falls just today. On December 11, 1972, exactly 48 years ago, man stepped on the Moon's ground for the last time ever. It was the Apollo 17 mission, eleventh in chronological order as regards the famous NASA program that had brought Neil Armostrong to our satellite eight years earlier. The launch of the Saturn V rocket took place four days before the final landing, to be precise from the Cape Canaveral base. Three astronauts were aboard, namely Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ron Evans, and Lem pilot and expert geologist Harrison Schmitt (the only civilian to set foot on this soil). Evans remained in orbit until it was time to return to Earth, while Schmitt was the pilot of the lunar module.

It was on this occasion that one of the most famous photographs from space was taken, the so-called "Blue Marble" that NASA itself attributed to the entire crew. Cernan and Schmitt remained on the Moon for three days, making this mission the longest to date ever completed. The crew could count on a lunar rover renamed "Lunar Roving Vehicle", a useful way to cross a good part of the rocky valley. Apollo 17 mission did not remain famous only for the last man who managed to set foot on the moon (technically Schmitt remains today the last man to have set foot on lunar soil, while Cernan the last to have left the surface); as pointed out by the astronauts, their work made it possible to formulate the main hypotheses on the origin of the satellite thanks to the discovery of volcanic glass and the so-called and characteristic "orange soil".

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency
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