The Last Man On The Moon

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

On 11th December 1972, almost 40 years ago, man set foot on the moon for the last time.

The Apollo 17 mission manned by Eugene Cernan and geologist Harrison Schmitt was the last in the program, marking the end of, quite possibly, the most important era in space exploration.

The Apollo program began in 1969, after President John F. Kennedy expressed a desire for a manned moon mission by the end of the decade.

On 16th July 1969, Apollo 11 took off with Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard. While Collins remained in orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin transferred to the Lunar Module and descended to the moon’s surface, becoming the first men to set foot on the moon.

A lot of important work was carried out on this first mission, such as a solar wind experiment to measure the wind from the Sun, a laser-beam reflector to measure the exact Earth-Moon distance, and a seismic experiment package to record ‘moonquakes’. In addition 47 lb of soil samples were collected.

Millions watched live as the American flag was erected and the astronauts walked on the surface of the moon. The crew returned to Earth on 24th July 1969, landing in the Pacific ocean near Hawaii.

Only four months later on 14th November 1969, Apollo 12 was launched with astronauts Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon and Alan Bean. While Gordon stayed in orbit, Conrad and Bean landed on the moon just 600 feet from where Surveyor 3, a previous unmanned probe, had landed two years before. Bean and Conrad removed pieces of Surveyor 3 for later analysis on Earth.

The surrounding area was explored and more experiments were set up. Gordon and Bean also collected more rock and soil samples before returning to Earth on 24th November.

Apollo 12 demonstrated improvements in the accuracy of the landing guidance of the space craft, so Apollo 13 was intended to land on more rugged terrain than the previous vessels.

Apollo 13 was launched on 11th April 1970 with Lovell, Fred Haise and John Suigert. Unfortunately an oxygen tank ruptured, so landing on the moon had to be cancelled. The power and survival systems of the Lunar Module was used to swing behind the moon and return to Earth four days after take-off.

The Americans waited nine months before launching Apollo 14. Modifications had been carried out to the spacecraft to prevent a recurrence of the previous malfunction.

Captain Shepard and Commander Edgar Mitchell landed the Lunar Module in the rugged Fra Mauro region of the moon, while Stuart Roosa remained in lunar orbit in the Command Module.

Shepard and Mitchell spent nine hours exploring an area containing some of the oldest rocks that had yet been recovered. They collected 96 lbs of geological samples and deployed scientific instruments. They returned to Earth on 9th February 1971.

On 26th July 1971 Apollo 15 was launched, manned by Colonel Scott, James Irwin and Alfred Worden. Scott and Irwin spent nearly three days on the lunar surface near the Apennine mountain range, which is one of the highest on the moon.

They deployed more scientific instruments and collected 200 lbs of rock, including a crystalline piece of the original lunar crust, which was about 4.6 billion years old.

They left a television camera on the surface to record their departure. Before leaving orbit a satellite was launched to transmit data about gravitational, magnetic and high-energy fields in the lunar environment. They returned to Earth on 7th August.

The penultimate lunar mission took place on 16th April 1972 with astronauts Young, Charles Duke and Thomas Mattingly. They were there for 20 hours setting up experiments powered by a small nuclear station. They collected 214lbs of rock samples.

Eugene Cernan and geologist Harrison schmitt were the last men to set foot on the moon in the Apollo 17 mission launched on 6th December 1972. They landed five days later and spent 22 hours exploring while Ronald Evans remained in orbit. It was the first time a geologist had been selected for a lunar mission.

The scientific instruments left by the astronauts have provided scientists with invaluable information about the moon.

The temperature and gas pressure at the lunar surface was measured, showing the atmosphere to be so thin that it couldn’t be reproduced in even the best vacuum chambers on Earth.

Also measured was the heat flow from the moon’s interior; molecules and ions of hot gases streaming out from the atmosphere of the Sun (solar wind); the magnetic and gravitational fields of the moon; seismic vibrations of the lunar surface caused by ‘moonquakes’; landslides and meteoric impacts; and by use of laser beans, the precise Earth-Moon distance was determined.

The lunar surface is covered with a layer of rubble formed by meteroid impacts. Seismometers operating on the surface have recorded signals indicating between 70-150 meteroid impacts per year. This may be a problem for engineers wanting to design permanent moon bases.

Sending men to the moon has given us a new picture of it, and much of the information gleaned from the experiments is still being analysed.

Since 1972 no man has set foot on the moon, but scientists are planning and preparing for a much harder task: sending a man to Mars. - Originally on Physics Post by Nicole Kennedy
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Ken G
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So who stepped off the Moon last, Cernan or Schmitt? Everyone knows who the first man on the Moon was, I'm curious who the last will be.
 
  • #3
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It was Gene Cernan. Rather than see it as an honour (though It think he does use it to promote his revenues from public appearances) I believe he is pissed off that the US has abandoned manned space exploration and instead substituted skipping along the edge of the atmosphere.

For the record, the first man on Mars will 1) not be an American, 2) probably not be a man.
 
  • #4
Ryan_m_b
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For the record, the first man on Mars will 1) not be an American, 2) probably not be a man.
I would point out the tautology there but instead I'd like to ask why you think it will be more likely to be a woman? Astronauts of all nations seem depressingly gender unequal.
 
  • #5
Ken G
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In fact, I'd say the evidence is pretty slim that any human will ever step foot on Mars. The two main obstacles are the potential failure of technological society, or less pessimistically, the simple absence of a good enough reason to do it, when stacked against the risks and costs. It might take a super-wealthy individual who is freer to decide their own priorities, rather than a nation, but few individuals have ever managed to command that much usable wealth.
 
  • #6
D H
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I would point out the tautology there but instead I'd like to ask why you think it will be more likely to be a woman? Astronauts of all nations seem depressingly gender unequal.
I think you meant contradiction rather than tautology, and I suspect that that apparently contradictory statement by Ophiolite was made quite intentionally. Ophiolite obviously had a broader meaning than a male human being in the first use of the word "man."

Multiple studies have shown that a two or three year mission to Mars and back had better be of a mixed gender crew if the intent is to have the crew return without loss of life or loss of sanity. To put it delicately, astronauts ain't monks. The strong drives that motivate a person to risk life and limb to become an astronaut spill over into other more human drives. A mixed crew for a very long mission is essential to crew survival. Since it was a man who took that first step onto the Moon, it makes a lot of sense to have it be a woman who takes the first step onto Mars.

That is assuming that Ophiolite meant "human being" with that first use of the word "man." An even broader meaning is "intelligent being." If Ophiolite is a pocket believer in the singularity, that could add yet another dimension to the statement that " the first man on Mars will 1) not be an American, 2) probably not be a man."
 
  • #7
Ryan_m_b
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I think you meant contradiction rather than tautology
Did indeed.
Multiple studies have shown that a two or three year mission to Mars and back had better be of a mixed gender crew if the intent is to have the crew return without loss of life or loss of sanity
Fair enough.
That is assuming that Ophiolite meant "human being" with that first use of the word "man." An even broader meaning is "intelligent being." If Ophiolite is a pocket believer in the singularity, that could add yet another dimension to the statement that " the first man on Mars will 1) not be an American, 2) probably not be a man."
Ah the singularity, one of my biggest pet hates amongst all modern religions. I did wonder if the comment was meant to imply a robot rather than a man.
 
  • #8
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I would point out the tautology there but instead I'd like to ask why you think it will be more likely to be a woman? Astronauts of all nations seem depressingly gender unequal.
It's questionable whether or not its a tautology; it is, however, primarily rhetoric - as intended.

There are five reasons I said it would be a woman. In no particular order:
1) To offer a counter to the gender inequality you refer to.
2) In recognition of the increasing role women play in all aspects of what were previously seen as male territory.
3) There is some research that suggests that women may be better suited for the rigrours of long distance space travel. (I don't have that research to hand, but if you require I'll try to track some of it down.)
4) To stir up some discussion, which apparently unfounded absolute statements will often do.
5) The first Mars trip would likely have a mixed crew, for political and practical reasons. There would be a nice symmetry about a woman being selected the next 'first'. (Not to mention the delicious humour of Venus landing on Mars.)
 
  • #9
rbj
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The Apollo program began in 1969, after President John F. Kennedy expressed a desire for a manned moon mission by the end of the decade.

...

- Originally on Physics Post by Nicole Kennedy
dunno who Nicole Kennedy is, but someone might tell her that the Apollo program began earlier than 1969.
 
  • #10
Multiple studies have shown that a two or three year mission to Mars and back had better be of a mixed gender crew if the intent is to have the crew return without loss of life or loss of sanity. To put it delicately, astronauts ain't monks.
Sex in space is a bad idea all 'round. Fetuses CAN attach in the womb, and they CAN grow. But the idea of delivering a baby in zero-g is significantly more hazardous than telling the crew to stay celibate at all costs. Or, y'know, just have a crew consisting entirely of females. Only guys go insane from two years of sexless behavior.
 
  • #11
Vanadium 50
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but someone might tell her that the Apollo program began earlier than 1969.
And that President Kennedy ended before 1969.
 
  • #12
D H
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Sex in space is a bad idea all 'round. Fetuses CAN attach in the womb, and they CAN grow. But the idea of delivering a baby in zero-g is significantly more hazardous than telling the crew to stay celibate at all costs.
Birth control.

Or, y'know, just have a crew consisting entirely of females. Only guys go insane from two years of sexless behavior.
Lisa Nowak.


While sexuality is viewed a four letter word in the US, that is pretty much a perverse view of what is a very human desire. Sex keeps both genders sane. Females, by the way, are not immune from sexual desires, or from weird behavior when those desires are suppressed.
 
  • #13
Birth control.
Has unknown effects in zero-g, and is not 100% effective.

Lisa Nowak.
Was not crazy because she was sex-deprived.
 
  • #14
Ryan_m_b
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Has unknown effects in zero-g, and is not 100% effective.
What is it about zero-g that you think will effect a condom? As for other kinds of contraception it would be relatively easy to test the efficacy of an implant or pill before you start the mission.
Was not crazy because she was sex-deprived.
You are aware that women have a sex drive too right? And that men don't really go insane from celibacy?
 
  • #15
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Whatever happened to all those rocks collected?
And did they offer much useful information?
 
  • #16
Chronos
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All the moon rocks were sold on ebay - about 20 tons worth to date. Mostly by impoverished former astronauts.
 
  • #17
skippy1729
Multiple studies have shown that a two or three year mission to Mars and back had better be of a mixed gender crew if the intent is to have the crew return without loss of life or loss of sanity. To put it delicately, astronauts ain't monks. The strong drives that motivate a person to risk life and limb to become an astronaut spill over into other more human drives. A mixed crew for a very long mission is essential to crew survival. Since it was a man who took that first step onto the Moon, it makes a lot of sense to have it be a woman who takes the first step onto Mars.
1. I don't think many astronaut wives will allow that kind of arrangement.

2. Married couples who otherwise fit crew requirements are going to be hard to come by.

3. Coed crews are likely to produce more tension than they relieve unless the female member(s) are professionals i.e. astro-whores.

Perhaps the solution would be an all female crew.

Skippy
 
  • #18
skippy1729
In fact, I'd say the evidence is pretty slim that any human will ever step foot on Mars. The two main obstacles are the potential failure of technological society, or less pessimistically, the simple absence of a good enough reason to do it, when stacked against the risks and costs. It might take a super-wealthy individual who is freer to decide their own priorities, rather than a nation, but few individuals have ever managed to command that much usable wealth.
Robert Zurbin's "Mars Direct" plan is budgeted at about $20 billion. It would probably produce more jobs than the $700 billion stimulus pork-barrel. This is not NASA's idiotic plan of building something like Battlestar Galactica in Earth orbit which will never get funding.

By the way, Ken, what are the risks? Is failure a risk? Sure there might be a failure which would lead to a better plan. Somebody might die? That isn't going to stop many potential crew members. People sign up every day to fight and die in some 120 degree middle east toilet with body armor and 100 pounds of gear.

While it may be politically unpopular now, when will it ever be? Maybe the day after the Chinese plant their flag on the Red Planet?

As to an individual or corporation funding the effort, the Moon has more commercial potential for development of Helium-3. There are right now a dozen or so individuals who could fund a "Mars Direct" type program and still have billions to spare.

Skippy
 
  • #19
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A group of men can survive in "isolation" for an extended period of time without murdering or raping eachother. See...

Also, keep in mind that the drive to set foot on an Alien world may keep some people's minds off of sex for a while. Or at least allow themselves to keep self-satisfied...
 
  • #20
Ken G
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By the way, Ken, what are the risks? Is failure a risk? Sure there might be a failure which would lead to a better plan. Somebody might die? That isn't going to stop many potential crew members.
It won't stop the crew, but it will stop the decision makers. The Challenger proved that. A conscientious space agency will never commit humans to a mission that has a high chance of ending in failure, and I suspect that this will always be true of a Mars mission. A large body of science fiction literature is simply not ever going to be viewed as a good enough reason to put humans on Mars, and it will take something more compelling than "because it's there." I'm just giving an opinion, but I would certainly wager money that no one alive today will ever witness a human on Mars. Robots are clearly the way to go for the foreseeable future, and it takes something of an optimist to try to see beyond that-- given the societal challenges we now face.
As to an individual or corporation funding the effort, the Moon has more commercial potential for development of Helium-3. There are right now a dozen or so individuals who could fund a "Mars Direct" type program and still have billions to spare.
That's kind of a falsehood about individual wealth. When individuals are said to "be worth" more than 20 billion dollars (let's say 50 billion once all the cost overruns of a Mars mission are included), no one really means they could convert 50 billion dollars worth of assets into something concrete. The wealth is on paper, and very hard to make liquid except in much smaller chunks. (You can't sell 50 billion dollars worth of stock, for example, without someone getting spooked and the stock price collapsing or some such thing). I don't know what the all-time record for money actually converted from something on paper to something physically real by a single individual is, but I'll bet it's a whole lot less than that. Corporations can convert that kind of money, but the corporation is a lot of people with a joint purpose, and comes with all the problems that corporations have-- like getting people to agree what that purpose is, and being able to convince stockholders and so forth. It might be possible, I'm just saying there is not yet any economic model for something that is essentially a charity to play out at that scale.
 
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  • #21
skippy1729
... and it will take something more compelling than "because it's there."...
At some time in the future there will be a global extinction of human life on Earth. Armageddon, some new unstoppable virus, asteroid impact or the eventual death throes of our Sun. 50 years, 5000 years, millions of years, no one knows.
Although it would take centuries, a permanent, self-sustaining colonization of Mars is possible. The payoff is huge: real estate and insurance of the continuation of our species. Unfortunately the payoff is hundreds of years down the road and humans tend to be very "short term".

Many people will say that it is foolish and we should solve our problems on Earth first. Unfortunately that is a phoney choice; the problems here may change but there will never be a utopia.

The longer we wait the greater the potential for failure.

Skippy

PS Perhaps the most important "short term" reason to maintain US supremacy in space is our military vulnerability should someone decide to weaponize their space program. Our drones, fighter planes, our whole fight-by-wire high tech weapons become useless if a few GPS, communication and spy satellites are taken out.
 
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  • #22
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A conscientious space agency will never commit humans to a mission that has a high chance of ending in failure, and I suspect that this will always be true of a Mars mission..
NASA committed to the Apollo program. I think it was Aldrin who said he thought the mission had a 1/3 chance of success, a 1/3 chance of failure, but they would survive and a 1/3 chance they would fail and die. That program and the preceding Mercury and Gemini programs constantly skirted disaster.

The Challenger and Columbia disasters were largely down to a combination of poor design and poor process control. The shock/horror reaction was because the public had been misled into thinking these were proven craft, rather than essentially test vehicles.

A significant proportion of humanity is not risk averse. Many of these people embrace risk. Until climbing Mount Everest became a commercial proposition the number of the deaths on the mountain more or less equalled the successful ascents. That means, approximately, climbers were willing to accept a 50% chance of dying for the same chance of reaching the summit.

Moreover, you are asserting that the Mars mission would have a high chance of failure without providing any evidence to support that assertion.
 
  • #23
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Agreed, Ophio, but a government sponsored and funded space agency has to follow strict guidelines and safety precautions that make dangerous missions like this cost prohibitive. The private sector, on the other hand....
 
  • #24
D H
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Robert Zurbin's "Mars Direct" plan is budgeted at about $20 billion.
By means of hand-wave economics. Mars Direct relies on several technologies that are at best TRL 2-3. Some, TRL 1. There's no room in that grossly underestimated budget for R&D flights, no room for test missions, no room for over-optimistic estimates from the purveyors of the technologies. Those key technologies will work perfectly, and within budget, the first time they are flown in space.

As to an individual or corporation funding the effort, the Moon has more commercial potential for development of Helium-3.
Even that is dubious because it too is predicated on a technology that doesn't exist yet (large-scale commercial fusion power).

There are right now a dozen or so individuals who could fund a "Mars Direct" type program and still have billions to spare.
They didn't get their billions by wasting it on projects that have zero return on investment.
 
  • #25
Ryan_m_b
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1. I don't think many astronaut wives will allow that kind of arrangement.

2. Married couples who otherwise fit crew requirements are going to be hard to come by.

3. Coed crews are likely to produce more tension than they relieve unless the female member(s) are professionals i.e. astro-whores.

Perhaps the solution would be an all female crew.

Skippy
This statement seems quite sexist looking back on it. You seem to be suggesting that astronauts will only be men and that the female crew would only be there to satisfy the needs of the men. Furthermore you ignore the fact that the average woman has the same sexual drive as the average man.
At some time in the future there will be a global extinction of human life on Earth. Armageddon, some new unstoppable virus, asteroid impact or the eventual death throes of our Sun. 50 years, 5000 years, millions of years, no one knows.
Although it would take centuries, a permanent, self-sustaining colonization of Mars is possible. The payoff is huge: real estate and insurance of the continuation of our species. Unfortunately the payoff is hundreds of years down the road and humans tend to be very "short term".
I'm not convinced that we could create a self-sufficient colony anytime soon. The biggest problem is an ecosystem to live in, it's not that we don't have the industry (we don't but that's another issue) but we have a huge lack of understanding as to how ecosystems work that we can't even begin to replicate one. You can spend all the trillions of dollars you like sending the required industry and millions of colonists to Mars but the knowledge just isn't there for us to build an artificial ecoystem for them to live in.
 

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