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A Trip to the Moon and Beyond
Probably most adult Americans can name the first man to set foot on the Moon (go to the Astronaut Hall of Fame on the Web if you need a brush-up course) but who was the last man to walk on the Moon?

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Apollo 17�s visit to the Moon, the last by humans. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt served as Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 17 -- the only scientist (Schmitt has a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard) and the last of 12 men to step on the Moon.


Schmitt, who served as a judge at this year�s Intel ISEF, spoke to a standing room only crowd of students and teachers on Thursday. His spellbinding presentation was enlivened by his personal reminiscences of the historic mission and his reflections on the future of space travel and spiced with beautiful photos the crew took during the flight and their excursions on the Moon.

In 1965 Schmitt was selected by NASA as part of its first group of scientist-astronauts. While scientific experimentation was a secondary focus in the earlier space missions, science became a major focus of the program after the successful Apollo 11 Moon landing. Schmitt convinced NASA to move from laboratory training to more realistic simulations of the conditions humans would find on the Moon. For example, he and his Lunar Rover partner, Gene Cernan, navigated the volcanic soil of Schmitt�s home state of New Mexico to prepare for their excursions on the lunar surface.

Because he was not a pilot, as all previous astronauts had been, Schmitt attended a year-long flight training program. Apollo 17 launched on December 7, 1972 and three days later Schmitt and Commander Cernan landed their ship the Challenger in a valley named Taurus-Littrow while Ron Evans orbited overhead in the Command Module America. Formed some 4 billion years ago and deeper than the Grand Canyon, the target landing space is ringed by mountains that reach an elevation of 7,000 feet.

Cernan and Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the surface of the Moon; 22 hours were spent doing 3 excursions aboard the Lunar Rover. Along the way the two astronauts collected a variety of rock samples and planted one of 6 United States flags still waving on the surface of the Moon. During his talk, Schmitt showed detailed photos of the lunar surface, including shots of his own footprints that will stay on the Moon�s surface for some 2 million years, and breathtaking shots of the Earth, shining colorfully some 240,000 miles away.


Schmitt, who served as a U.S. Senator from New Mexico from 1977-1982 and is now involved in technical consulting, is convinced that the only way mankind will return to deep space will be through a commercial venture. He is involved now with several initiatives to advance the private sector�s involvement in space exploration and acquisition of lunar resources.

The scientist-astronaut, who obviously enjoyed his interaction with the young scientists at the Intel ISEF, ended his presentation by reminding the audience that the people who made the Apollo moon landings possible were in their twenties. Why? "They were not afraid to look for creative solutions to problems and they had no real conception of the possibility of failure". Good advice for our 1,200 Intel ISEF finalists in Louisville.

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