Forty Years Later: Apollo 17’s Final Footprints

It was in December of 1972 that human beings last set foot on the moon. Their tracks prints endure — even if the American lunar program doesn't.

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The thinking 40 years ago was simple: After six lunar landings in less than three and a half years, humanity was clearly on its way to becoming a multi-world species. Lunar colonies would follow in the 1970s, then Mars landings in the 1980s, and who knew where we’d be in the distant 21st century? Well, now we know: right back where we started. Since Gene Cernan, Ron Evans and Harrison Schmitt returned from NASA’s final lunar landing in December 1972, no human being has ventured beyond low Earth orbit. Yes, China is looking moonward, and the U.S. is making vague noises about going, well, somewhere before too long. But we can’t even say where it is — The moon? Mars? An asteroid — which makes it awfully hard to go there for real. Still, the Apollo landings were very real, and the pictures the crewmen brought home were exquisite. What follows is a tiny sampling from that final journey — which will have to suffice until, at long last, there is another.

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