Friday, December 7, 2012
40 years ago: In the early morning of December 7, 1972, Apollo 17 was launched from Cape Kennedy to the Moon. It was the eleventh and final mission of the Apollo program, the first night launch of U.S. human spaceflight, the final crewed launch of a Saturn V rocket, and the sixth and last mission to land humans on the Moon. Crew were Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt, who returned to Earth after a 12-day mission that included the longest total lunar surface extravehicular activities, the largest lunar sample return and the longest time in lunar orbit. Five hours after launch, at a distance of 28,000 miles, the crew took a photo known as “The Blue Marble” (pictured), one of the most widely distributed photographic images in existence. It is one of the few to show a fully illuminated Earth, since the Sun was behind the astronauts when they took the image.