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20th of December 2022
50th anniversary of Apollo 17
This month is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission. Originally, twenty Apollo missions were planned but, following US Congress budget cuts, Apollo 17 became the last Apollo mission to the Moon. Crewed by Gene Cernan, Ron Evans, and Lunar Module pilot Jack Schmitt, Apollo 17 launched from Cape Kennedy on December 7th and splashed down on December 19th (UT). Key goals for the mission included attempts to sample lunar material older than that collected at Mare Imbrium by Apollo 15, and to investigate whether there had been any relatively recent volcanic activity. The mission was the longest crewed lunar landing mission and returned 115 kg of lunar material. As described by Hamish Lindsay in his essay on the honeysucklecreek.net website, the mission was supported within Australia by tracking stations at Honeysuckle Creek, Carnarvon, and by the new 210-foot (64 m) DSS-43 antenna, Ballima, at Tidbinbilla ( which was not officially opened until the following year). In addition, the Parkes radio-telescope, Murriyang, provided good television signals from the Lunar Rover. The image above shows the Lunar Module, Challenger, as it approached the Command Module after its stay on the moon's surface. A portion of Gene Cernan's face can just be seen in the dark triangle just above the centre of the image. (Image credit: NASA photo AS17-149-22859 and honeysucklecreek.net)

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