|What a way to close out the Apollo program. Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt in the Taurus-Littrow valley of the Moon with the American flag close by and our beautiful blue and white planet in the background.
At first there were the familiar difficulties of lunar exploration. Commander Eugene Cernan cautioned Jack, "You've just got to take lt easy until you learn to work in one-sixth g." Jack answered, "Well, I haven't learned to pick up rocks, which is a very embarrassing thing for a geologist."
By the end of their third moonwalk much had been accomplished. They had dug, drilled and danced on the Moon's surface a record 22 hours, driven their lunar roving vehicle nearly 22
miles, and picked up 110 kilograms of moonrocks for return to Earth.
But at 5:55 p.m. EST December 14, 1972, Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt lifted off in their lunar module Challenger ending the first wave of human exploration of the Moon.
As we think back and remember what President John F. Kennedy said 11 years earlier, "In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the Moon... it will be an entire nation." And so it was. An entire nation, even an entire planet.