Dec 19, 1972 – Apollo 17 splashed down in the Pacific, ending the Apollo program of manned lunar landings.
On December 19, the crew jettisoned the no-longer-needed Service Module, leaving only the Command Module for return to Earth. The Apollo 17 spacecraft reentered Earth’s atmosphere and landed safely in the Pacific Ocean at 2:25 pm, 6.4 kilometers (4.0 mi) from the recovery ship, the USS Ticonderoga. Cernan, Evans and Schmitt were then retrieved by a recovery helicopter and were safely aboard the recovery ship 52 minutes after landing.
At this time, Eugene Cernan is the last man to have walked on the face of the Moon.
Crew size 3
Eugene A. Cernan
Ronald E. Evans
Harrison H. Schmitt
Command Module: America
Lunar Module: Challenger
Start of mission
Launch date December 7, 1972, 05:33:00 UTC
Rocket Saturn V SA-512
Launch site Kennedy LC-39A
End of mission
Recovered by USS Ticonderoga
Landing date December 19, 1972, 19:24:59 UTC
Landing site South Pacific Ocean 17.88°S 166.11°
The Last Moonwalk
The third moonwalk, the last of the Apollo program, began at 5:26 pm EST on December 13. During this excursion, the crew collected 66 kilograms (146 lb) of lunar samples and took nine gravimeter measurements. They drove the rover to the north and east of the landing site and explored the base of the North Massif, the Sculptured Hills, and the unusual crater Van Serg. Before ending the moonwalk, the crew collected a rock, a breccia, and dedicated it to several different nations which were represented in Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, at the time. A plaque located on the Lunar Module, commemorating the achievements made during the Apollo program, was then unveiled. Before reentering the LM for the final time, Gene Cernan expressed his thoughts:
…I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. “Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”
Cernan then followed Schmitt into the Lunar Module after spending approximately seven hours and 15 minutes outside during the mission’s final lunar excursion.