Lunar and Planetary Institute






Apollo 17 Mission

Overview | Landing Site | Surface Operations | Photography | Experiments | Samples

Surface Operations Overview

Apollo 17 Astronaut on the Moon Video Clip of Surface Operations (1.0MB in AVI format)

Apollo 17 Traverse Map

Traverse Map

First Extravehicular Activity

During the first EVA, the lunar rover and the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package were deployed. Lunar samples, including a deep core tube, were collected in the vicinity of the lunar module, and a brief, 3.5-kilometer geologic traverse was made. Some difficulties in deploying the experiments package were addressed by shortening the planned geologic traverse. The EVA lasted 7 hours and 12 minutes.

The Apollo 17 Lunar Module
Astronaut Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17 mission commander, checks the lunar rover during the early part of the first extravehicular activity (EVA). The lunar module is in the background. This photo of the "stripped down" rover was taken prior to equipment loading.
Astronaut Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17 mission commander, checks the lunar rover during the early part of the first extravehicular activity (EVA).
   

The First Extravehicular Activity
The first lunar surface EVA began at 6:54 p.m. EST on December 11. Television coverage began after the installation of the ground-controlled television camera and the high-gain antenna on the lunar rover. Extra time was required for deploying the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package. As a result, the first geological traverse was shortened to 3.5 kilometers, with a stop near the rim of Steno Crater south of the landing site. The EVA lasted 7 hours and 12 minutes, ending at 2:06 a.m. EST on December 12.

Television coverage began after the installation of the ground-controlled television camera and the high-gain antenna on the lunar rover.

Activities at the Lunar Module Site

Testing the Rover Testing the Rover
Deployment of the lunar rover on this mission was accomplished with only minor difficulties. The lunar rover performed well throughout the mission; however, the right rear fender was accidentally knocked off during the first EVA and had to be repaired at the start of the second EVA.
   
Deploying the TV camera Deploying the TV camera
As with all of the missions using a rover, the TV camera for this mission was mounted on the rover itself. This enabled the camera to transmit live coverage of lunar surface activities wherever the astronauts went, not just in the immediate area of the landing site. The antenna mounted on the rover transmitted the coverage and also allowed the camera to be controlled from Earth.
   
Flag Deployment Flag Deployment
Astronaut Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17 commander, salutes the deployed U.S. flag on the lunar surface during the first EVA.
   
The Lunar Surface Cosmic Ray Experiment Deployment The Lunar Surface Cosmic Ray Experiment Deployment
The Lunar Surface Cosmic Ray Experiment was deployed on the lunar module during the first EVA. It was retrieved on the third EVA and returned to Earth.

Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package Deployment

The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) was deployed approximately 185 meters west-northwest of the lunar module. The experiments on this mission were the Lunar Seismic Profiling Experiment, the Heat Flow Experiment, the Lunar Surface Gravimeter Experiment, the Lunar Ejecta and Meteorites Experiment, and the Lunar Atmospheric Composition Experiment. A deep core sample and a Traverse Gravimeter Experiment measurement were also taken during the ALSEP deployment. Deployment went normally for the most part; however, extra time was required to level the central station and antenna and to retrieve the drill cores.

The Traverse Gravimeter Experiment

The Traverse Gravimeter Experiment
The Traverse Gravimeter Experiment measured the gravitational acceleration at various stops along the traverses relative to the value of the gravitational acceleration at the landing site. These measurements were made in order to study buried geological structures near the landing site.

The Geologic Traverse

Traverse Map

Station 1 - Steno Crater
Station 1 was located about 150 meters from the northwest rim of Steno Crater, in the middle of the Taurus-Littrow Valley. This station was originally planned for Emory Crater, which is southeast of the actual stop and about 2.5 kilometers from the lunar module. However, because of the extra time required for drilling the core holes and deploying the ALSEP experiments, the traverse was shortened to go only as far as Steno Crater. When Steno Crater formed, it would have ejected material from below the surface and deposited it in the surrounding region. The goal of this stop was to collect samples of this subsurface material. Activities at this site included deploying an explosive charge for the Lunar Seismic Profiling Experiment, making a traverse gravimeter measurement, collecting rake samples, and performing panoramic photography.
Station 1 - Steno Crater
   
Surface Electrical Properties Experiment Site
The antennae and transmitter for the Surface Electrical Properties Experiment were deployed about 120 meters east of the lunar module. The crew also gathered samples, performed documentary and panoramic photography, and made a traverse gravimeter measurement at this site.
Surface Electrical Properties Experiment Site

Other EVA Activities

Additional sampling and photography were performed between the rover deployment and the flag deployment. Five additional traverse gravimeter measurements were taken near the lunar module (three at the beginning of the EVA and two at the end). During the return from Station 1 to the lunar module, a second seismic explosive charge was deployed.

Explosive Package Deployment Explosive Package Deployment
During this and the other EVAs, a series of explosive charges that were part of the Lunar Seismic Profiling Experiment were placed on the lunar surface. A total of eight charges were deployed at distances of between 100 meters and 3.5 kilometers from the experiment at the ALSEP site. The charges were detonated after the astronauts left the surface.

Details on lunar sample collection procedures (JSC)

EVA 1 Voice Transcript (Apollo Lunar Surface Journal)

Second Extravehicular Activity

The second EVA was a 20.4-kilometer geologic traverse to regions south and west of the landing site. Four major sampling stops were made, along with eight minor sampling stops. At the end of the EVA, some time was spent trying to solve a problem with the Lunar Surface Gravimeter. The EVA lasted 7 hours and 37 minutes.

Repair of the Lunar Rover Fender Repair of the Lunar Rover Fender
A close-up view of the makeshift repair arrangement on the right rear fender of the lunar rover. During the first EVA, a hammer got underneath the fender and a part of the fender was knocked off. The broken fender allowed the rover to kick up a dust plume while moving, which caused difficulty for the crew. Following a suggestion from astronaut John Young at Mission Control, the crew repaired the fender using lunar maps and clamps from the optical alignment telescope lamp. This repair was made at the beginning of EVA 2.

The Geologic Traverse

    Traverse Map

    Surface Electrical Properties Site
    This traverse started out with a stop to activate the Surface Electrical Properties Experiment. The crew also collected additional samples and performed additional panoramic photography while at this site.

    Station 2 - Nansen Crater
    Station 2 was located at the foot of South Massif near the southeast rim of Nansen Crater. South Massif is part of the rim of the Serenitatis impact basin and the massif was uplifted at the time of the basin-forming impact, so the rocks that form the massif must be older than this impact. A landslide in this region put boulders from high on the massif into reach of the astronauts. The primary purpose of this stop was to sample these boulders, which represent material formed very early in the Moon's history that possibly came from deep within the Moon's crust. In addition to collecting samples, the astronauts performed panoramic and documentary photography and made traverse gravimeter and electrical properties measurements.

    Station 2A
    Station 2A was located about 600 meters northeast of Nansen Crater. Originally planned as sample stop number LRV-4, it was decided to take an additional traverse gravimeter measurement to check the gravity gradient between the South Massif and the valley. While off the rover, the crew collected four samples.

    Station 3 - Lara Crater
    This station was located about 50 meters east of the rim of Lara Crater. Although time was limited, the crew took a traverse gravimeter measurement, gathered samples including a double-length core tube sample and a rake sample, and performed panoramic and 500-millimeter photography. This station is along the Lincoln-Lee Scarp, which is an example of a mare wrinkle ridge. Wrinkle ridges are common in the lunar maria, but this is the only such ridge studied at close range during the Apollo program.

    Station 4 - Shorty Crater
    At Station 4, on the south rim crest of Shorty Crater, the astronauts made traverse gravimeter and electrical properties measurements; gathered samples, including a trench sample and a double-length core tube sample; and performed documentary and panoramic photography. This stop was made to investigate the possibility that this crater was actually a volcanic structure. The famous "orange soil" was discovered at this site. Shorty is actually an impact crater and the orange soil is an older volcanic deposit.

    Station 5 - Camelot Crater
    Station 5 was located within a block field on the southwest rim of Camelot Crater. Activities at this site included a traverse gravimeter measurement, sample gathering, and documentary and panoramic photography.

    The LRV Samples The LRV Samples
    During EVA 2 and EVA 3, samples were scooped from the surface between traverse stations by the use of a long-handled sample bag holder, as shown in the photograph. The samples were taken without dismounting the rover at locations chosen by astronaut Jack Schmitt. Documentation photographs were taken as the rover approached the selected site and while the rover was stopped at the site. A total of eight such stops were made during EVA 2; these are designated as LRV stops on the traverse map. Three of the LRV stops were between the Surface Electrical Properties experiment site and Station 2, one was at Station 2A, two were between Stations 3 and 4, and two more were between Stations 4 and 5.
Other EVA Activities

In addition to the activities noted, the crew deployed three explosive packages for the Lunar Seismic Profiling Experiment, one at station LRV-7 and two at unnumbered sites west of the lunar module. Two additional traverse gravimeter measurements were made near the lunar module. At the end of the EVA, the astronauts also releveled the Lunar Surface Gravimeter.

Third Extravehicular Activity

Apollo 17 astronaut working on the MoonThe primary goal of the third EVA was a 12.1-kilometer geologic traverse to regions north and east of the landing site. Four major sampling stops were made, along with four minor sampling stops. Results from several experiments were also recovered for return to Earth. The EVA lasted 7 hours and 15 minutes.

The third extravehicular activity (EVA) began at 5:25 p.m. EST on December 13. Again the emphasis was on sampling. The major objective was to sample several large boulders near the base of the North Massif. Tracks along the massif showed that these boulders had rolled down from high on the massif, allowing the crew to sample massif material that would otherwise have been inaccessible. As with South Massif on EVA 2, material in the North Massif was sampled in the expectation that it would contain material that formed very early in the Moon's history and deep in the crust. Four major sampling stops and four minor sampling stops were made on the traverse. One additional stop, Station 10, had been planned but was eliminated to allow more time for some unfinished mission tasks. The EVA lasted 7 hours and 15 minutes, ending at 12:40 a.m. on December 14. The traverse covered a distance of about 12.1 kilometers.

The Geologic Traverse
    Traverse Map

    Surface Electrical Properties Site
    As with EVA 2, the third EVA began with a stop at the Surface Electrical Properties Experiment site. The crew activated the experiment, but attempts to make additional measurements with this equipment during EVA 3 were unsuccessful.

    Station 6 - North Massif
    Station 6 was on the south slope of the North Massif, approximately 250 meters north of the break in slope between the valley floor and the massif. Here the crew made a traverse gravimeter measurement, gathered samples, including a single-length core tube sample and a rake sample, and performed documentary, panoramic, and 500-millimeter photography.

    Station 7 - North Massif
    This station was located at the base of the North Massif, just above the break in slope between the valley floor and the massif. The crew gathered samples and performed documentary and panoramic photography at this location.

    Station 8 - Sculptured Hills
    Station 8 was near the base of the Sculptured Hills, south of Wessex Cleft and about 4 kilometers northeast of the lunar module. Activities at this site included two traverse gravimeter measurements; sampling, including rake and trench samples; and documentary and panoramic photography.

    Station 9 - Van Serg Crater
    A number of activities were performed at this last station on the geological traverse. An explosive charge for the Lunar Seismic Profiling Experiment was deployed. Two more traverse gravimeter measurements were taken. Samples, including a trench sample and a double-length core tube sample, were collected. The astronauts also performed documentary, panoramic, and 500-millimeter photography. Finally, they removed the data storage electronic assembly from the Surface Electrical Properties Experiment receiver.

    LRV Stops
    Four additional sampling stops, denoted as stations LRV-9 to LRV-12 on the traverse map, were made to obtain additional samples between the main traverse stops. Two of these were made between the Surface Electrical Properties site and Station 6, one was made between Stations 7 and 8, and one was made between Station 9 and the lunar module.

Other EVA Activities

The astronauts also performed several additional tasks during this EVA. Early in the EVA, they recovered the Lunar Surface Cosmic Ray Experiment plates. They also made three additional traverse gravimeter measurements at the lunar module. More photographs were taken and the last two explosive charges for the Lunar Seismic Profiling Experiment were deployed near the lunar module. At the end of the EVA, the Lunar Neutron Probe Experiment was retrieved and the lunar rover parked at Cochise Crater. As part of the final close-out, rock samples for distribution to other nations were collected and a plaque commemorating the Apollo landings was unveiled.

Lunar Neutron Probe Experiment Recovery Lunar Neutron Probe Experiment Recovery
The Lunar Neutron Probe Experiment was designed to obtain data on neutron capture rates in the lunar regolith as a function of depth. The experiment was deployed northwest of the lunar module in the hole from the deep drill core. The 2-meter probe was retrieved and deactivated at the end of EVA 3 after 49 hours of exposure. The photograph shows the gold-colored Mylar transport bag and the treadle used for recovering the deep drill core.
   
A view of the plaque left at the Taurus-Littrow lunar landing site by the Apollo 17 astronauts. End of the Lunar Landings
A view of the plaque left at the Taurus-Littrow lunar landing site by the Apollo 17 astronauts. The 9"× 7" commemorative plaque is made of stainless steel. It is attached to the ladder on the landing gear strut on the descent stage of the Apollo 17 lunar module Challenger.

Details on lunar sample collection procedures (JSC)

EVA 2 Voice Transcript (Apollo Lunar Surface Journal)