Apollo 17, The End of the Beginning
Painting Completed June 2014
| I was commissioned by a friend in San Francisco to create two paintings. They would be displayed together, but eventually one would go to his daughter and the other to his son. My friend wanted them to be stand-alone paintings, yet still relate to each other. We spent a considerable amount of time trying to come up with ideas we both thought might be interesting, important, and could make good paintings. It wasn't easy. We finally settled on showing how lunar exploration had changed from the first landing, Apollo 11, to the last landing, Apollo 17.
I believe one of the largely unrecognized skills that led to the great success of Apollo was the aggressive optimism and forward thinking of the leaders at NASA. Dr. Robert Gilruth, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas and Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are the two that I remember most, but there were many more.
Even as our leaders were wrestling with the challenges of making the first lunar landing, they were busy planning and building for more ambitious missions further down the road. Their efforts produced an improved Lunar Module that could carry a significantly greater weight of expendables so we could stay on the moon for longer exploration times.
Skilled engineers and technicians were also designing and building a transportation system that was far better than walking, so we could explore farther and faster from our Lunar Module. The Lunar Roving Vehicle, or Rover, was their brilliant solution to the problem.
I have painted Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt parked at Station 5, near a significant crater they had named Camelot in honor of President Kennedy. Camelot was one of the most impressive craters visited in the entire Apollo Program, with a diameter of 2000 feet and a depth of 250 feet. It is near the end of their second lunar excursion, and I have painted Gene pointing the way home for a night's rest inside their Lunar Module, Challenger. They both will need some rest, as tomorrow will be an even busier day.
I am impressed, even today, by how our capabilities for exploring another world had grown so much in only six flights. During their three separate excursions, Gene and Jack would comfortably ride in their Rover for a total of 4 hours and 29 minutes, traveling a total of 22 miles. They were on the lunar surface for a total of 22 hours and 4 minutes, explored out to a maximum distance of 4.7 miles on one excursion, and returned an impressive 243 pounds of rocks and soil to planet Earth. My, what progress we made in just six landings over a period of two and one half years!