A day that will live in infamy.

No, not that one.  I’m talking about December 7, 1972, the day the last of the Apollo Lunar missions launched.

After five successful missions, and one that failed but which nevertheless safely returned its three astronauts to Earth, the seventh and last Apollo Lunar mission, Apollo 17, took off at 12:33 AM EST on December 7, 1972.

This was the last time, to date, that humans have ventured beyond low earth orbit.

Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmidt (a scientist replacement for the original choice Joe Engle) rode a fire in the sky to the Moon.  Cernan and Schmidt landed on the Moon at 2:55 PM EST on December 11.  Three days later, on December 14th at 5:26 PM EST they left the Moon.

Before entering the Lunar Module for the last time, Cernan said:

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.

On December 19th the crew returned to Earth.

And no one has been back since.

And that is truly infamous.  We stood poised at the edge of the greatest adventure mankind has ever faced.

And we turned our backs on it.

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