Cernan read the requisite LRV numbers off to Houston, with battery temperatures at 114 and 138 degrees F. The temperatures of three of the traction drive motors were below nominal (read as "off-scale low'' to Houston) but the forward right motor was at 210 degrees, though this was still well below the 400-degree upper limit. The rover had continued to perform perfectly and the fender repair was holding well. Schmitt took Cernan's camera to take photos of a nearby glass-lined crater and collected a sample from the crater which he carefully placed inside a sample bag. Cernan carefully dusted off the battery covers and reported they were the cleanest he had ever seen. Ed Fendell panned and tilted the TV camera toward the battery covers to prove it.
"Hey, congratulate Jose (John Young) on that fender will you?'' Cernan told Houston. "Because I think he just saved us an awful lot of problems. He and whoever else worked on it.''
The astronauts spent the rest of the EVA going through the closeout procedures on their Cuff Check Lists. Cernan turned off and stowed the TV camera and performed other tasks to prepare it for their last EVA the following day. Before re-entering the Lunar Module, they spent over six minutes dusting each other off as best they could, with the legs of their suits having the most dust to remove. Even so, they brought more lunar dust into the LM than desired. By the time the hatch was closed and the cabin pressurized, Schmitt and Cernan had set an EVA record of seven hours and thirty-seven minutes for their second EVA. They took off their helmets and gloves and the pungent odor like spent gunpowder once again filled their cabin. Parker thanked the crew for a superb job that day, and handed over CapCom duties to Joe Allen.
Nearly two hours into their post-EVA checklist and discussion of the day's exploration, the subject of the Lunar Rover came up. Allen had been discussing the metabolic rate of both Cernan and Schmitt with the astronauts. As it turned out, the LRV had made a dramatic, positive impact on the astronauts' metabolic rate. During the ALSEP deployment and at the various station stops, the metabolic rate for both astronauts was over 1,000. While riding on the rover, it dropped to well below 500. The rover not only provided the means of getting the astronauts across considerable distances on the Moon for exploration and a means of carrying the necessary tools and collected samples, it also provided a needed period of rest that energized the astronauts. Interestingly, Cernan's metabolic rate while driving the rover was higher than Schmitt's, most likely because of the concentration he needed while driving.
"Actually, Joe,'' Cernan explained for the benefit of Houston, "for good long spans of the run up to Station 2, except when we had to pick our way up to Hole-in-the-Wall, I was running full bore at anywhere from, I guess, ten to twelve to fifteen clicks. I didn't hit fifteen going up (to Station 2) very much. Coming down I did, but it's really a 'standby for a turn and watch where you're going' type of run, because the small craters, of course, are the ones that can really jolt you. But the trouble is, you can never see what's just over the next ridge. The next ridge may be twenty meters away and you just can't see it until you're there, and you don't know whether it's a dish crater or whether it's a pit crater.''
''That description fits the geology up in there,'' Schmitt added, ''because we weren't seeing blocky rimmed craters; otherwise you would have been able to tell more easily about the old versus new craters, which would be the ones you could either go through or not go through, respectively.''
''That's a super machine to drive though, Joe, I'll tell you,'' Cernan said of the LRV. ''If you had enough time you could really learn to take it all the way. But you don't really do that, just the second time around.''
''Geno, was it spraying dirt at you today?'' Allen asked for many in Houston and Huntsville concerned about the fender repair and its effectiveness. ''Could you notice that you still missed the real fender and that the patched fender wasn't quite doing what maybe it could?''
''No, sir, I don't think we missed it at all,'' Cernan answered positively. After some more discussion of preparations for their evening's sleep period and installing their sleep hammocks, the discussion shifted to future lunar exploration missions.
''Gene and Jack, we're still marveling at the beautiful television pictures that we're getting from your TV camera there,'' Allen said enthusiastically. ''It's fun, in fact, to watch the tracks that you're leaving behind in the lunar soil, both footprints and
rover tracks. And some of us down here now are reflecting on what sort of mark or track will - someday - disturb the tracks that you leave behind there tomorrow."
"That's an interesting thought, Joe, but I think we all know that somewhere, someday, someone will be here to disturb those tracks,'' Cernan with assurance. "No doubt about it, Geno," Allen agreed.
"Don't be too pessimistic, Joe. I think it's going to happen,'' Schmitt added. "Oh, there's no doubt about that,'' Allen stated. "But it's fun to think about what sort of device will ultimately disturb your tracks.''
"Joe, I'll tell you it's also a pretty philosophical thought to think that you're riding around out here on what is really undisturbed everything, you know,'' Cernan offered. "If there was someone here, way back when sometime, they didn't leave much sign of their whereabouts, but that's an interesting thought, too, as you drive around and all of a sudden cross your own rover tracks and figure out those are the only ones that maybe have ever been here.''
The astronauts climbed into their hammocks and could not help but reflect on all the day's activities and discoveries they had made. Cernan, in particular, often felt that being on the Moon was a surreal experience - a reality almost too hard to believe. It was not something he felt compelled to share with anyone. He kept it to himself, at least until he returned to Earth and shared his experiences on the Moon with his family.
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