At 3:55 MST on December 14, 1972, the last human beings to visit the Earth’s moon lifted off from that body in the ascent stage of the Lunar Module Challenger. Left behind with the descent stage:
- A used car (the 3rd one left on the lunar surface), this one with a broken fender
- multiple scientific experiment packages
- a U.S. flag
- a commemorative plaque
- bootprints and miles of tire tracks
They’d also brought explosives, and used them (for geological purposes).
Before reentering the LM for the final time, Gene Cernan expressed his thoughts:
“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.”
Forty years later, we’re no closer to going back than we were in 1972.