Lunar and Planetary Institute






Apollo 17 Mission


Science Experiments

Orbital Science | Surface Science

The Apollo 17 Scientific Instrument Module (SIM)The instrument layout within the SIM bay.

Left: The Apollo 17 Scientific Instrument Module (SIM). Right: The instrument layout within the SIM bay.

Orbital Experiments

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.

The Metric and Panoramic cameras provided systematic photography of the lunar surface.

The Laser Altimeter measured the heights of lunar surface features

The S-Band Transponder Experiment measured regional variations in the Moon's gravitational acceleration.

The Apollo Lunar Sounder Experiment used radar to study the structure of the upper kilometer of the lunar crust.

The Ultraviolet Spectrometer Experiment studied the composition of the lunar atmosphere.

The Infrared Radiometer measured the cooling of the Moon's surface at night as a way to determine the physical properties of the lunar soil.

Other Apollo 17 Science Experiments

In addition to their lunar studies, the Apollo 17 crew performed several experiments intended to explore various aspects of the space environment. These experiments were performed primarily during the journeys to and from the Moon. The following links connect to sites at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) for further information about these experiments.

The Window Meteoroid experiment studied impacts on the windows of the Apollo 17 Command Module to obtain information about the size distribution of very small micrometeorites.

The Biostack Experiment studied the effects of cosmic rays on several types of biological materials, including bacteria spores, seeds, and eggs of brine shrimp, beetles, and grasshoppers.

The Heat Flow and Convection Demonstration studied convective flow and heat transport driven by surface tension.

The Light Flashes Experiment studied light flashes seen by the crew that are related to charged particles in space.

Surface Experiments

The Apollo 17 Lunar Surface Experiments Package.

In addition to their geologic studies, the Apollo 17 crew performed several experiments on the lunar surface. The results of some of these experiments were either radioed to Earth by the crew or returned to Earth for laboratory analysis.

The Soil Mechanics Investigation studied the properties of the lunar soil.

The Traverse Gravimeter Experiment measured how the Moon's gravitational acceleration varied at different locations near the landing site, which helped to measure the thickness of the basalt layer in this region.

The Lunar Neutron Probe measured the penetration of neutrons into the lunar regolith, which helped to measure the overturn rate of the regolith.

The Surface Electrical Properties measured the propagation of electrical waves through the lunar crust.

The Cosmic Ray Detector measured very high energy cosmic rays from the Sun and other parts of our galaxy.

Other experiments were deployed by the crew and then monitored from Earth by radio telemetry after the crew departed. This group of experiments was termed the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package (ALSEP). Each experiment was connected by a cable to the ALSEP central station, which provide radio communication to Earth and electrical power from a radioisotope thermal generator. Some of these experiments continued to return data until September 1977, when the entire ALSEP network was turned off due to lack of funding for the ground support team.

The Heat Flow Experiment measured the amount of heat coming out of the Moon.

The Lunar Seismic Profiling Experiment provided information about the structure of the upper kilometer of the lunar crust.

The Lunar Atmospheric Composition Experiment measured the composition of the Moon's tenuous atmosphere.

The Lunar Ejecta and Meteorites experiment measured the impact of small meteorites on the Moon.

The Lunar Surface Gravimeter attempted to detect gravity waves.

Apollo 17 Dataset Descriptions
The National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) provides data and information on Apollo experiments upon request to individuals or organizations in the United States. The same services are available to scientists outside the United States through the World Data Center for Satellite Information. Normally, a charge is made for the requested data to cover the cost of reproduction and the processing.