HomeOutdoorsNewsNASA Celebrates 50-Year Anniversary of Last Trip to the Moon

NASA Celebrates 50-Year Anniversary of Last Trip to the Moon

by Brett Stayton
(Photo by Ellen 11/Getty Images)

The fact that NASA has sent people to the moon is perhaps the most scientifically impressive accomplishment in history. 50 years ago today the last successful mission to send astronauts to the moon was launched.

The Apollo 17 mission was the sixth and final lunar exploration mission conducted by NASA. It was the first in which scientists conducted research about the Moon while actually being on the Moon.

On December 7th, 1972 three astronauts, Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt climbed aboard a spaceship at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their objective was to travel 238,900 miles away from their launch point and explore the moon.

According to Space.com, Evans remained in lunar orbit aboard a command module during the mission. Meanwhile, Cernan and Schmitt landed a lunar module on the surface of the moon. They spent a record-setting 75 hours on the moon and conducted 10 different experiments, and took more than 2,000 photographs. They also collected 242 pounds of moon dust and space rocks that were brought back to Earth for additional research. The collection most notably included a 4.2 billion-year-old stone. It suggests the moon once held a global magnetic field similar to the one found on Earth.

To commemorate their successful excursion, the astronauts left a plaque planted on the moon. It reads, “Here man completed his first exploration of the Moon, December 1972 A.D. May the spirit of peace in which he came to be reflected in the lives of all mankind.” Then on December 14, the two astronauts left the surface of the moon and returned to the command module. 5 days later, the space capsule the astronauts returned to Earth. They splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, successfully bringing the mission full circle.

Continued Space Exploration

It’s been 50 years since NASA last sent Astronauts to the moon, but the scientific exploration of space has continued.

Recent astronomical discoveries include a new galaxy was discovered that can give a look into the past, evidence of an asteroid strike on Mars, new photos of the Moon’s surface, and the use of echoes from black holes to create music.

NASA also has plans underway to again send astronauts to the moon in 2025 or 2026 as part of the Artemis program. Several important checkpoints and metrics must be met along the way in order for those missions to get the green light, but on the 50th anniversary of the last time that astronauts walked on the moon, it’s exciting to think that it might happen again someday.