14.12.1972 - Apollo 17 - Cernan & Schmitt


The Apollo program was reaching its logical conclusion. On December 7, 1972 the huge Saturn V lit up the Florida skies, in its only night launch, carrying an Apollo spacecraft on its way to the moon for the last time. This New Ware Kit commemorates one of the highlights of Apollo program when the last two men on the moon discovered volcanic orange soil at Shorty crater in the Taurus Littrow region. The crew of Apollo 17 was selected carefully. The Commander was Eugene ”Gene” Cernan, who was born on March 14, 1934 and selected among the third group of 14 astronauts in 1963. On Apollo 10 in May 1969, Cernan had come within 10 miles of the lunar surface as the Lunar Module Pilot of Snoopy. He previously had flown with Tom Staffford aboard Gemini 9 where they rendezvoused with, the ”Angry Alligator”, (the Augmented Target Docking Adaptor) but were unable to dock. Pressure was high on NASA to include a professionally trained scientist since it was the last mission. Harrison, ”Jack” Schmidt, who had studied at Cal Tech and had a PhD. from Harvard in Geology, was selected as the Lunar Module Pilot of Challenger. He had originally been chosen for the Apollo 18 crew, which was cancelled, so he was moved up to Apollo 17. Schmidt was born on July 3, 1935 and selected in the group of six scientist-astronauts in 1965. While Cernan and Schmidt were exploring the lunar surface, Ronald Evans would orbit the moon as the Command Module Pilot aboard America. Evans was born on Nov. 10, 1933 and had been selected among the fifth group of astronauts in 1966. During three days on the surface, Cernan and Schmidt made three moon walks lasting over 22 hours. They covered 19 miles in their exploration using the Lunar Roving Vehicle. On December 12, 1972 they made their most exciting discovery during their second moon walk. While exploring near Shorty crater Schmidt cried out the he had found orange soil. The two astronauts took samples of the orange soil which also showed tones of crimson and yellow. When later analyzed it was determined that the soil contained glass beads that had been formed by a volcanic eruption 3.5 billion years ago. The glass beads eventually were covered by other lava flows. They were brought to the surface 19 million years ago when Shorty crater was formed. The different colors of the beads were due to different concentrations of titanium and iron. The beads provided scientists with valuable information on the moon's origin. While Cernan and Schmidt conducted the longest exploration of the Apollo program, Ron Evans in the Command Module took thousands of photos with the mapping and panoramic cameras and extensive measurements of the moon. On the return flight home, Evans made a space walk to retrieve film canisters from the SIM (Scientific Instrument and Measurement) bay of the Service Module. On December 19, 1972 Apollo 17 splashed down in the Pacific. The Apollo program was an unqualified success. Twelve men had walked on the moon returning and returned with over 835 pounds of samples. These samples lead scientists to entirely new theories about the formation of the moon and the origins of the Universe. In the desolate Taurus Littrow valley there now is a plaque on the leg of the Lunar Module that reads, "Here Man Completed His First Exploration of the Moon. December 1972. May the Spirit of Peace in Which We Came Be Reflected in the Lives of All Mankind". The tracks left by the rover and the footprints of Cernan and Schmidt will last on the moon for eons. If you follow the tracks closely you will arrive at Shorty Crater and see the orange soil formed of volcanic glass beads. Though no one else may visit the site for decades, this last chapter in the Apollo program is authentically re-created in this fine kit from New Ware.