Forty years ago today, beginning just after 5:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, men took humanity's final steps on the moon. Apollo 17, the mission that sent them to make those strides, was notable not just for the bittersweet ending that it represents; it also broke records -- as the longest manned lunar landing flight; as the longest total lunar surface extravehicular activities; as the largest lunar sample return; and the longest time in lunar orbit.
Below, images -- with captions provided, like the photos themselves, by NASA -- of the last manned mission to the moon.
Two Apollo 17 crewmen ready a Lunar Roving Vehicle trainer following its deployment from a Lunar Module trainer in the Flight Crew Training Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Taking part in the Apollo 17 training exercise were Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan (right), commander; and Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt, lunar module pilot. (NASA)
Geologist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt photographed standing next to a huge, split boulder at Station 6 on the sloping base of North Massif during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA-3) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. The "Rover" Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) is in the left foreground. Schmitt is the Apollo 17 Lunar Module pilot. This picture was taken by Commander Eugene A. Cernan. (NASA Commons)
Astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 commander, salutes the deployed U.S. flag on the lunar surface during extravehicular activity (EVA) of NASA's final lunar landing mission in the Apollo series. The lunar module is at the left background and the lunar roving vehicle, also in background, is partially obscured. The photo was made by Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt, lunar module pilot. (NASA)
Scientist-Astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, is photographed next to the U.S. flag during extravehicular activity (EVA) of NASA's final lunar landing mission in the Apollo series. The photo was taken at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. The highest part of the flag appears to point toward our planet earth in the distant background. (NASA)
Scientist-Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt collects lunar rake samples at Station 1 during the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA-1) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. This picture was taken by Astronaut Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17 commander. Schmitt is the lunar module pilot. The lunar rake, an Apollo lunar geology hand tool, is used to collect discrete samples of rocks and rock chips ranging in size from one-half inch (1.3 cm) to one inch (2.5 cm). (NASA)
Wide-angle view of the Apollo 17 Taurus-Littrow lunar landing site. To the left in the background is the Lunar Module. To the right in the background is the Lunar Roving vehicle. An Apollo 17 crewmember is photographed between the two points. The shadow of the astronaut taking the photograph can be seen in the right foreground. (NASA)
The Earth appears in the far distant background above the hi-gain antenna of the lunar roving vehicle in this photograph taken by scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA-3) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. Astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 commander, stands beside the LRV. Schmitt is the mission's lunar module pilot. (NASA)
View of the Lunar Module from the Apollo 17 spacecraft during transposition/docking maneuvers. The white dots surrounding the Lunar Module are debris from the Saturn S-IVB stage separation. (NASA)
A panorama of lunar photographs originally taken by astronaut Eugene Cernan, depicting lunar rocks in the foreground, lunar mountains in the background, some small craters, a lunar rover, and astronaut Schmidt on his way back to the rover. A few days after this image was taken, humanity left the Moon. It has yet to return. ( NASA Commons)
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