Today we mark an odd anniversary. It’s an event with a vaguely disappointing legacy, and hopefully sometime in the future this anniversary will not be so important. All of this is to say, I sincerely hope that December 13, 1972 does not remain the final day that humanity stepped on the Moon.
Yes, today is the 41st anniversary of the last moonwalk. At 5:26 PM EST on December 13, NASA astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt emerged from the lunar module and began exploring the lunar landscape for the third and final time of the Apollo 17 mission. The day’s task was fairly straightforward, all they had to do was collect 150 pounds of moon rock for transportation back to Earth.
After just over seven hours the two men returned to the Lunar Module. Schmitt was the first to enter the capsule, leaving Cernan alone for a moment as the last man on the Moon. Now, you should know that it was public knowledge that Apollo 17 would be the last planned mission to the Moon for a bit of time. Although the Apollo 18, 19 and 20 missions had been planned, they were all scrapped during the summer of 1970. So, Cernan knew that as the last man on the Moon for the foreseeable future, he had to say something.
Just before walking up the ladder to the Module, Cernan began his final transmission from the surface. Magnificently, aside from a few pre-planned phrases, his wonderful final remarks were almost entirely thought up on the spot:
I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. “Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”
Cernan then ascended the ladder to the capsule and prepared for the return to Earth. The legs of the Apollo 17 Lunar Module remained on the Moon, and on the legs there is a plaque upon which there is an image of the Earth and the words “Here Man completed his first explorations of the Moon. December 1972 AD. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.”
Tonight, mix an Astronaut Cocktail and raise it to the Moon in the hope that humans will one day walk upon its face again. The Astronaut is a citrusy cocktail, that I presume was inspired by the orange flavored drink mix Tang, a staple of NASA astronaut diets. Of course, it tastes much better than Tang, because as Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin recently said “Tang sucks.”
- 1 ounce Vodka
- 1 ounce White Rum
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- 1 ounce passion fruit juice
Shake with ice and strain over ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a orange wedge.
Tomorrow: The death of a prince and the birth of a cocktail.