December 14, 2007

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The End of the Beginning

Apollo 17 Station 5 panorama image made by Hans Nyberg; original images from Eugene Cernan.

The blast off of the Apollo 17 lunar module Challenger from the Taurus-Littrow Valley, 35 years ago today, ended the first episode of human spaceflight beyond Earth. Apollo was the most audacious exploration in human history, for the astronauts went far beyond where any human had gone before, on trips where no physical help was possible - although Apollo 13 illustrated that mental and emotional help (and prayers) could reach to the Moon, and back. Apollo 17 astronauts Harrison Schmitt (pictured loping) and Gene Cernan had a great time on the Moon, singing as they collected rocks, discovered orange soil and drove the rover 35 km. And then they left. The past is unchangeable. We made mythic reaches into space and then frittered away opportunities to build on them. Now multiple nations dream of going to the Moon, as a trial for exploring Mars, to mine He3, or to prove to themselves and the world that they have come of age technologically. The only humans who walked on another world are old, and most will not live to see the return to the Moon a dozen or more years from now. Neither did Tsiolkovski or Goddard live to see their lunar dreams realized, but their lives made that future possible. And we will return to the Moon inspired by the deeds of Frank, Jim and Bill (Ap 8 ), Tom, John and Gene (Ap 10), Neil, Mike and Buzz (Ap 11), Charlie, Dick and Al (Ap 12), Jim, John and Fred (Ap 13), Al, Stu and Ed (Ap 14), Dave, Al and Jim (Ap 15), John, Tom and Charlie (Ap 16), and Gene, Ron and Jack (Ap 17).

Chuck Wood

I thank for the use of their magnificent reconstruction of the Apollo 17 mission. Click here to see the full pan of this scene.

Related Links:
LPOD’s 37th anniversary of Apollo 11.

Yesterday's LPOD: Blinded by Blandness

Tomorrow's LPOD: Lunar Classics


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