Monday, December 17, 2012

40 Years Ago - Apollo 17’s Ron Evans Took a Walk in Space

Forty years ago today, the last NASA manned mission to the Moon was on its way home. At that time, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans made a one hour six minute space walk to retrieve film cassettes from Apollo 17’s exterior cameras. Those photos captured the crust beneath much of the lunar surface. In mission imagery this photo of Ron outside the service module bay was widely used. It also stands out as the furthest walk in deep space still on the books since no one has returned to the moon or ventured further since December 1972. Evans also holds the record for most time in lunar orbit.

Fifteen years later I wrote to Evans, than a retired astronaut busy with a variety of work. I asked him several questions that he answered and signed several magazine pages of the mission that I had sent him. Ron wrote this spacewalk was the highlight of the mission for him being near the moon’s vicinity on the return to earth. He told me on January 2, 1988 “what a ball this was” to walk in space. Ron Evans died of a heart attack on April 7, 1990.

In 1996 I met Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan when he came to town to help dedicate a portion of the National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library. He signed a photo that I had brought him of a very tired looking mission commander inside the lunar module on the moon’s surface after EVA-3.

Apollo 17 also produced a very famous image of the full earth where the continents of Antarctica, Africa, Europe and parts of Asia can be seen. The photo was long used as the earth image from 1972 until perhaps a decade ago when more full earth images from satellites and interplanetary probes were released.

Evans said of the round earth image, “it is truly round.” He also shed some light on which crew member took that famous photo. He wrote me, “I took that one, but Jack (Schmitt) will also claim credit. Ha!”

Someday I will contact the third member of the Apollo 17 crew, Jack Schmitt and learn more firsthand about that mission and who took that famous photo.