December 7, 1972: Apollo 17, the last manned Apollo mission, is launched/”The Blue Marble” photograph is taken.
The sixth and most recent manned moon landing, Apollo 17 marked the end of the near-legendary Apollo space program. Two members of the Apollo 17 crew, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, were the eleventh and twelfth (and last) astronauts to ever walk on the moon. The mission’s aims were fairly unremarkable in terms of similar launches: conducting geological surveys, collecting samples, and conducting experiments, both in-flight and on the lunar surface.
Still, Apollo 17 spent the longest time conducting lunar activities of all the Apollo missions (over three days) and also returned the most lunar samples (nearly 250 pounds). It also marked the first night launch of a manned spacecraft (at just past 12:30 AM).
And most famously, the crew of the Apollo 17 were able to capture a now iconic image of the Earth, 28,000 miles away and completely illuminated by the sun: "The Blue Marble" (pictured above). “The Blue Marble” was only one of dozens of mission photos, but it remains the most famous and one of the most widely seen, widely reproduced photographs of all time, because it was the first photograph of the full Earth and one of few snapped directly by human hands.
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