Lunar and Planetary Institute

Apollo 17 Mission

Mission Overview

The highly successful Apollo 17 manned lunar landing mission was the final in a series of missions in the Apollo Program. Scientific objectives for the mission included geological surveying and sampling of materials and surface features in the area of the Taurus-Littrow region; deploying and activating surface experiments; and conducting inflight experiments and photographic tasks during lunar orbit and trans-Earth coast.

Mission Event List and Timeline

Launch       December 7   12:33:00 am 00:00:00
Translunar injection       03:45:37 am 03:12:37
CSM-LM docking       04:39:45 am 03:56:45
Lunar orbit insertion       December 10   02:47:23 pm 86:14:23
CSM-LM separation       December 11   12:20:56 pm 107:47:56
Lunar landing       02:54:57 pm 110:21:57
First EVA       06:54:49 pm 114:21:49
Second EVA       December 12   06:28:06 pm 137:55:06
Third EVA       December 13   05:25:48 pm 160:52:48
Lunar liftoff       December 14   05:54:37 pm 185:21:37
LM-CSM docking       08:10:15 pm 187:37:15
Trans-Earth injection       December 16   06:35:09 pm 234:02:0
Splashdown       December 19   02:24:59 pm 301:51:5


Apollo 17 Launch

The 363-foot tall Apollo 17 (Spacecraft 114/Lunar Module 12/Saturn 512) space vehicle was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 12:33 a.m., December 17, 1972. The launch countdown proceeded smoothly until 30 seconds before the scheduled ignition when a failure in the automatic countdown sequencer occurred and delayed the launch for 2 hours, 40 minutes. Apollo 17, the final lunar landing mission, was the first nighttime liftoff of the Saturn V launch vehicle. Flame from the five F-1 engines of the Apollo/Saturn first (S-1C) stage illuminates the nighttime scene.


Among the changes to the Apollo 17 spacecraft were modifications to the Scientific Instrument Module (SIM) to accommodate three new orbital experiments. In addition, many minor changes were made to the spacecraft because of problems that occurred during the Apollo 16 mission. Among these was the redesign of the lower edge of the thermal shields on the aft equipment rack on the LM to prevent exhaust gases from entering the cavity behind the shields. The LRV itself was essentially unchanged; however, extensive changes were made to the experiment pallet to accommodate experiments unique to Apollo 17.

The Command Service Module America
The spacecraft consisted of three modules, a lunar module (LM), command module (CM), and a service module (CSM). After the spacecraft orbited the Moon, the LM and CSM separated. Two astronaunts in the LM landed on the lunar surface, while the CM pilot remained in lunar orbit in the command module.

The Command Service Module America
The Lunar Module Challenger
The lunar module was a two-stage vehicle designed for space operations near and on the Moon. The lunar module stood 7 meters high and was 9.4 meters wide (diagonally across the landing gear). The ascent and descent stages of the LM operated as a unit until staging, when the ascent stage functioned as a single spacecraft for rendezvous and docking with the command module (CM). The on-orbit dry mass of the LM was 4240 kilograms.
The Lunar Module Challenger
The Lunar Roving Vehicle
The lunar roving vehicle (LRV), used for the first time on Apollo 15, was a four-wheeled manually controlled, electrically powered vehicle that carried the crew and their equipment over the lunar surface. The increased mobility and ease of the travel made possible by this vehicle permitted the crew to travel much greater distances than on previous lunar landing missions. The vehicle was designed to carry the two crewmen and a science payload at a maximum velocity of about 16 kilometers per hour (8.6 mph) on a smooth, level surface and at reduced velocities on slopes up to 25°. It could be operated from either crewman's position, as the control and display console was located on the vehicle centerline. The deployed vehicle was appoximately 10 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 45 inches high. Its chassis was hinged such that the forward and aft sections fold back over the center portion, and each of the wheel suspension systems rotated so that the folded vehicle fit in quadrant I of the lunar module. The gross operational weight was approximately 1535 pounds of which 455 pounds was the weight of the vehicle itself. The remainder was the weight of the crew, their equipment, communications equipment, and the science payload.
The Lunar Roving Vehicle


Eugene A. Cernan, Mission Commander Eugene A. Cernan, Mission Commander, was born on March 14, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois. He received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in 1956 and an M.S. in Aeronuatical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1961. He was chosen in the third group of astronauts in 1963. He was the pilot of Gemini 9, the back-up pilot for Gemini 12, back-up LM pilot for Apollo 7, lunar module pilot on Apollo 10, and backup commander for Apollo 14. He was the eleventh man to walk on the Moon. Later, he was the deputy director of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. He resigned from NASA and the Navy on July 1, 1976.
Ronald B. Evans, Command Module Pilot Ronald B. Evans, Command Module Pilot was born on November 10, 1933, in St. Francis, Kansas. He received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kansas in 1956 and an M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1964. He was in the fifth group of astronauts chosen in 1966. He was backup command module pilot for Apollo 14. After Apollo, he was the backup command module pilot for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Evans retired from NASA on March 15, 1977.
Harrison H. Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot Harrison H. Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot was born on July 3, 1935, in Santa Rita, New Mexico. He received a B.S. from the California Institute of Technology in 1957 and a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University in 1964. He was chosen in the fourth group of astronauts in 1965. He was backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 15 and the twelfth man on the Moon. In May 1974 he was named NASA's Assistant Administrator for Energy Programs, a position he held until he resigned from NASA on August 30, 1975.

The Backup Crew

The following astronauts made up the backup crew for the mission: John W. Young (pilot on Gemini 3, backup pilot on Gemini 6, command pilot on Gemini 10, backup CM pilot Apollo 7, CM pilot on Apollo 10, backup commander for Apollo 13, and commander of Apollo 16) was the backup commander; Stuart A. Roosa (CM pilot on Apollo 14, and backup CM pilot for Apollo 16) was the CM pilot backup; Charles M. Duke Jr.,(backup LM pilot for Apollo 13 and LM pilot on Apollo 16) was backup LM pilot.

Mission Summary

Apollo 17 ReturnThe first phase of man's active exploration of the Moon came to an end with the Apollo 17 mission. Many questions about lunar science were answered during the intensive activity of the Apollo missions, but many more remain to be answered. Some of the unanswered questions will be answered in the future from data already returned but as yet not fully analyzed, and some will have to wait for data yet to be returned from instruments already in place on the lunar surface. Still other questions must await further exploration.

The basic objective of the Apollo 17 mission was to sample basin-rim highland material and adjacent mare material and investigate the geological evolutionary relationship between these two major units. In addition to achieving this general geological objective, it was also possible to measure directly the thermal neutron flux in the regolith, to explore geophysically the subsurface structure of the valley floor, to determine the constituents of the lunar atmosphere and observe their variations during the lunar day and night, and to explore even more of the lunar surface remotely from orbit.

Numerous individual investigations of surface and spatial features have been performed based on the Apollo 17 crew orbital observations and panoramic and metric camera photographs. The scope of these investigations have ranged from studies of the structure of individual craters to studies of the sequences of mare stratigraphy and mare ridges to studies of the solar corona and zodiacal light.

For more information:

More about the Apollo 17 Mission (NSSDC)

More about the Apollo 17 Mission (KSC)

More about the Apollo 17 Mission (NASM)

More about the Apollo 17 Mission (VSS)