Humans Last Landed On The Moon 42 Years Ago Today

For a brief period in the 1960s and 1970s, 12 people ventured all the way to the surface of the Moon. The accomplishment at the time was hailed as a political victory over the Soviet Union, but as decades have passed the landings have taken on more symbolic meaning with NASA — a time of optimism, of science and of the American spirit.

The last lunar landing was Apollo 17, which took place on Dec. 11, 1972. Commander Eugene Cernan and lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt did three moonwalks in the Taurus-Littrow valley, scoping out the highlands to try to get a geologic sense of the area. Among their more memorable findings are orange soil. You can see some pictures from their sojourn below.

Apollo 17’s Saturn V rocket poised on the launch pad before its Dec. 7, 1972 takeoff. Credit:
Apollo 17’s lunar rover, flag and part of the lunar module in this view taken out the module’s window. Credit: NASA
Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan with a gravimeter experiment. The lunar rover is at right. Credit; NASA
Orange soil (from volcanic glass beads) is clearly visible in this image from Apollo 17. Credit: NASA
The Apollo 17 command module America and its service module, as photographed by the returning lunar module Challenger. Credit: NASA
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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