This Week in Houston History: Apollo 17 Lands on December 19, 1972, Bringing the Space Program to a Close

According to The NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive, the Apollo program began in 1963 with the goal of landing humans on the moon and safely returning them to Earth. The Apollo program ended on December 19, 1972, with the successful landing of Apollo 17.

"Soil mechanics, meteoroids, seismic, heat flow, lunar ranging, magnetic fields, and solar wind experiments were among the experiments carried out by the six missions that landed on the Moon," NASA wrote.

This week in December, two of those missions were launched or landed.

All of Apollo's lunar missions and nine of the Gemini missions, which served as a precursor to Apollo, were monitored from Houston, which is home to the Johnson Space Center and Mission Control Center.

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Here's what you should be aware of:

According to The NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive, NASA's Apollo program began in 1963, and missions tested lunar and command modules, orbited the moon, and landed on the moon for the first time with Apollo 11 on June 29, 1969, followed by five more successful lunar landings.

The Apollo missions, however, were not without tragedy.

Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, the crew of Apollo 1, died on the launch pad during a pre-flight test in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 27, 1967, when a rapidly spreading fire ignited the cabin.

According to NASA, the cabin was filled with pure oxygen and the hatch trapped the crew members inside.

In November 1967, the program was restarted with an unmanned flight, Apollo 4, also known as Saturn 5.

The Apollo 17 mission was the sixth to successfully land on the moon.

Harrison Schmitt, the first scientist-astronaut, was a member of the crew, serving as the Lunar Module Pilot.

The commander was Eugene A. Cernan, and the Command Module Pilot was Ronald E. Evans.

According to NASA, the flight was launched on December 7, 1972, and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on December 19, 1972, bringing the Apollo program to a close.

Six Apollo missions landed on the moon in total, with others collecting data and conducting experiments.

Here you can learn more about the experiments and see the data collected by the Apollo 17 astronauts.

The launch of Apollo 8 came at the end of a tumultuous year that saw massive casualties in the Vietnam War, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and protests, and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

According to the Fox Nation documentary "Christmas on the Moon," NASA became determined to send its next mission to the moon that summer.

On December 24, 1968, the crew of Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders broadcast live from lunar orbit.

Here is a link to the broadcast.

"The vast loneliness up here on the Moon is awe inspiring, and it reminds you of how fortunate you are back on Earth," Lovell said.

"From here, the Earth appears to be a vast oasis in the vastness of space."

The full transcript can be found here, as well as additional data and experiment results from Apollo 8.

The crew arrived back on Earth on December 27, 1968.

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