missions were flown. On nine missions human beings have beheld the Earth
as a planet in space. On six missions men have landed on the moon, between
July 16, 1969 (Apollo 11) and December 7, 1972 (Apollo 17). The
photographs above are from the first and last moon landing. The remaining
missions were canceled during the Vietnam War.
The last mission
should remain in our heart as a celebration of the human spirit that once
stood tall on its pinnacle of grand achievement, but not as a celebration
of what once was and is no more, but as a celebration of what we are as
human beings, and continue to be, and will celebrate again and again
Apollo 17 on the
transport crawler - NASA
The year 1972 was the last
year when the Earth was
seen from space as shown above. The final Apollo mission, Apollo 17, was launched at 12:33 a.m. EST
on December 7, 1972.
Liftoff Apollo 17 -
When a dozen days
later, on December 19,
1972, five days before Christmas, the Apollo-17 mission came to a
close, mankind's long-cherished dream -- that had come true, to be
able to step forth from the Earth to explore the Universe -- came also to
a close. It seemed that a bit of the human spirit had been quenched. When
President Nixon cancelled the Apollo project a great blow was dealt to
America. The moon landing achievement has never been repeated. It became a victim of a
war that America had launched against itself in which the capability
to go back became destroyed. It has yet to be regained.
However, the value of what
the Apollo missions have accomplished will never be destroyed. In 1969 an estimated 500 million
people had witnessed mankind's first cautious step onto another celestial
sphere outside of our own. For three years we (mankind) "owned' moon. We even brought a car along on the
last missions to extend our range of exploration.
right: Apollo 17 astronauts Schmitt,
Cernan (seated), Evans - NASA
In total, 12 people stood on
the lunar surface. A whopping 2,415 samples of the moon's rocks and soils were collected, weighing 382 kg
in total (842 lb). Most of the samples were collected by Apollo
During this general timeframe (1969-1976) the Soviet Union landed 6 unmanned spacecraft
on the moon. Of these, three missions (Luna 16, 20, and 24)
returned with an additional 326 g (0.66 lb) of samples. One (Luna
23) failed to return after collecting samples. Two other unmanned
missions (Luna 17 and 21) had deployed rovers that traveled a total of 47.5
The difference in results between the two nation's efforts demonstrates
the immense value of manned missions. Robots have their place, but the
human being has a presence that provides a capability that no robot has.
This difference defines mankind's future in space, and with it its future
on the Earth for all times to come.