Explore the final NASA Apollo mission to the moon in photographs featuring Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan who died last week.
Gene Cernan, the last human to walk on the moon, died last week at age 82. The naval aviator joined NASA in 1963 and remained with the agency for over a decade, flying three times in space. He is one of only three people to travel to the moon twice and one of only 12 people to walk upon its surface. Here are some of the most memorable photographs from his last mission, Apollo 17, in 1972.
Liftoff of the Apollo 17 mission, aboard a powerful Saturn V rocket, took place early in the morning on Dec. 7, 1972. On board were commander Gene Cernan — a veteran of the Gemini program and moon-orbiting mission Apollo 10 — as well as two rookies, lunar module pilot Harrison (Jack) Schmitt and Ron Evans. Apollo 17 targeted a landing in the lunar Taurus-Littrow valley and had two main geological objectives, according to the Lunar and Planetary Institute: to sample material in the highlands that were older than rocks created from an impact in nearby Mare Imbrium, and to see if volcanism had happened in the valley.
Apollo 17 was the sixth Apollo mission to land on the moon, and the last to see humans walk on the surface. Though there are no firm plans from any space agency to return humans to the moon in the near future, robotic exploration of the moon (mostly in orbit) has continued, particularly as scientists discovered evidence of water ice on its surface. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has also taken high-resolution imagery of all the Apollo landing sites, including Apollo 17.