Lunar and Planetary Institute

Apollo 17 Mission

Apollo 17 Mission Patch

Mission OverviewNavigation arrow
The splashdown and recovery of the Apollo 17 crew marked the end of the Apollo flight program. The mission plan was for the spacecraft to land in the Moon's Taurus-Littrow region near the rim of the Serenitatis Basin, which seemed to have all the elements geologists would want to explore in this final mission. Cinder cones and steep-walled valleys with large boulders at their base presented the possibility of sampling both young volcanic rock from depth and older mountainous wall material at the same location. Thus, the setting for the Apollo 17 landing was a unique place in which to carry out many investigations and to return lunar materials that could aid in answering many fundamental questions. In every aspect, Apollo 17 was indeed a fitting capstone to the Apollo missions. Its awesome and magnificent midnight launch, its flawless operation, its 72-hour lunar staytime, its deployment of scientific instrumentation, its return of the richest collection of lunar materials from any lunar site, its orbital science coverage, and its glorious splashdown in the Pacific Ocean surely marked Apollo 17, according to previous mission evaluations, as the mission most impressively exemplifying the Apollo program.

Orbital View of the Landing Site

Landing Site Navigation arrow
The Apollo 17 lunar module landed within 200 meters of the preferred landing point in a deep narrow valley called Taurus-Littrow. This valley is located in the mountainous highlands at the eastern rim of the Serenitatis basin, about 750 kilometers east of the the Apollo 15 landing site and about the same distance north of the Apollo 11 site. The Apollo 17 site is in a dark deposit between massifs of the southwestern Taurus Mountains and south of the crater Littrow. The valley floor is essentially flat with only a gentle incline.

"... there's some very subtle hummocky-like craters right in and around where we are. And there's not a lot of boulders laying on the surface, but there's a lot of what appear to be boulders that are covered up by some of the dark mantle."

Apollo 17 Astronaut on the Moon
Surface Operations Navigation arrow
During their 75 hours on the Moon, the Apollo 17 crew conducted three extravehicular activities (EVAs) totaling 22 hours on the lunar surface. These EVAs included lunar rover traverses totaling 36 kilometers, collection of lunar samples at 22 locations in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, deployment or performance of 10 science experiments, and examination and photography of the lunar surface. The following map of the landing area shows where these activities took place.

Orbital View of the Moon

Mission PhotographyNavigation arrow
The photographic objectives of the Apollo 17 mission were to provide precisely oriented mapping camera photographs and high-resolution panoramic camera photographs of the lunar surface, to support a wide variety of scientific and operational experiments, and to document operational tasks on the lunar surface and in flight.

Apollo 17 Scientific Instrument Module (SIM)

Science Experiments Navigation arrow
In addition to their studies on the lunar surface, the Apollo 17 crew performed intensive studies of the Moon from lunar orbit. In addition to photography performed with handheld cameras in the Command Module, a series of experiments were carried in the Scientific Instrument Module on the Service Module.

Microscopic view of the Apollo 17 orange soil 74220

Lunar SamplesNavigation arrow
Apollo 17 landed in the Taurus-Littrow Valley on the eastern edge of Mare Serenitatis. There were two main geology objectives for this site: to obtain samples of ancient rocks from the lunar highlands and to look for evidence of young volcanic activity on the valley floor. The Apollo 17 crew collected 741 individual rock and soil samples, including a deep drill core that included material from 3 meters below the lunar surface, with a total mass of 111 kilograms. These samples addressed both of the pre-mission objectives.