"I'm on the footpad,'' Cernan stated for Mission Control. "And Houston, as I step off to the surface at Taurus-Littrow, I'd like to dedicate the first step of Apollo 17 to all those who made it possible.'' The Lunar Module Pilot soon followed Cernan to the lunar surface. Cernan found getting adjusted to /6 gravity was easy.
"You adapt very quickly,'' stated Cernan during the author's interview. "One-sixth gravity is the greatest environment you could live in, far better than zero gravity, certainly, and far better than Earth gravity because you can move so much more easily and quickly. You just have to plan ahead. You still have the same amount of momentum and inertia as far as getting around. One-sixth gravity is absolutely a phenomenal environment to live in and work in.''
Cernan informed Houston that he would inspect the folded Lunar Rover stowed in the LM descent stage.
"Okay, Bob. So far, the Rover looks pretty good,'' Cernan told Parker. "Roger; sounds good, Geno,'' Parker acknowledged. Cernan then removed the protective thermal blanket between the rover and the LM descent stage.
"Everything I can see looks pretty good,'' Cernan told Houston. "The walking hinges, you will be glad to know, are intact! They did not drop.''
"Roger! That's a first,'' Parker replied. The walking hinges on Apollo 15 and 16 had to be reset prior to deployment.
"You ready for me to deploy?'' Schmitt asked after he climbed the ladder and reached for the D-ring lanyard that would release the rover from its locked position and rotate it out several degrees.
"Okay. Let me just double-check,'' Cernan said. "Drape, contingency, unstow aft deployment cable, verify walking hinge, forward and aft chassis parallel. They are.'' After Cernan verified that the outrigger cables were taut, Schmitt released the rover. Together, the two astronauts succeeded in deploying the LRV in just over fifteen minutes. The forward and aft chassis locking pins had to be manually set with a special tool designed for that purpose. Cernan climbed aboard the rover to verify it was drivable before it was fully configured with all its equipment and tools. He read the battery and motor temperatures off to Houston and then threw the switches on Control and Display Console before trying the rover out.
"Okay. I can't see the rear ones, but I know the front ones turn,'' Cernan announced. "And it does move. Hallelujah. Hallelujah, Houston! Challenger's baby is on the roll.''
"Roger. Copy that. Sounds great,'' Parker answered.
"And judging from the way it's handling, I think the rear wheels are steering too,''
The right rear fender of the rover was damaged during EVA-1. An expedient fender repair was needed and worked out at Johnson Space Center. Surface map covers, duct tape and AOT clamps from the Lunar Module proved an effective solution. John Young (left), Charlie Duke, Deke Slayton, Rocco Petrone and Ron Blevins review the finished repair. (NASA/JSC)
Cernan guessed. Schmitt verified that the rear wheels were also turning. The Boeing, GM and MSFC engineers and managers smiled and nodded at the news. Apollo 17 had its rover, and it was shaping up to be a great mission. Schmitt took several photographs of Cernan driving the stripped-down rover. After parking the LRV near the LM, the two astronauts began to outfit it for their first EVA. Cernan loaded the communications equipment on the front of the rover, while Schmitt configured the back of the LRV, beginning with the Aft Pallet Assembly and Lunar Hand Tool Carrier, the Traverse Gravimeter Experiment, and sampling tools and bags. Cernan completed setting up the telecommunications equipment and powered on the TV camera and the LCRU.
"Hey, we have a picture, 17. We have a picture,'' Parker acknowledged, as Ed Fendell began operating the TV camera from his console in Houston. Cernan went to the rear of the rover to initialize the gravimeter and get the first reading. Nothing could be loaded on the LRV while the TGE was operating in order to get an accurate reading, so the astronauts deployed the American flag and took turns photographing each other next to it, with Challenger and the LRV in the background. This flag was particularly significant, as Schmitt explained for all those listening.
"Houston, I don't know how many of you are aware of this, but this flag has flown in the MOCR (Mission Operations Control Room at the Johnson Space Center in Houston) since Apollo 11. And we very proudly deploy it on the Moon, to stay for as long as it can, in honor of all those people who have worked so hard to put us here and to put every other crew here and to make the country, United States, and mankind, something different than it was.''
The next important task was deploying the ALSEP, which Schmitt performed. Of all the Apollo astronauts, Schmitt was the most knowledgeable regarding the ALSEP, having been involved with its design almost from the beginning. This ALSEP was different, having some experiments carried over from previous missions, but with several new experiments. Some additional experiments would be deployed during traverses. The heat flow experiment, the lunar geology investigation, the cosmic ray detector and the soil mechanics experiment returned for Apollo 17. New experiments included the Lunar Surface Gravimeter, Lunar Ejecta and Meteorites, Lunar Seismic Profiling, Lunar Atmospheric Composition, Lunar Traverse Gravimeter, Surface Electrical Properties and Lunar Neutron Probe. The last of the ALSEPs was the most sophisticated piece of equipment ever deployed on the Moon. Prior to deployment, the ALSEP was configured like a barbell, with experiments on each end of the bar, so the astronaut could walk to the deployment site about 100 meters from the LM. Schmitt was perhaps the most relaxed of all the Moonwalkers, and would occasionally break out in song while doing his tasks. Deployment of the ALSEP would be methodical and deliberately slow, not only to ensure proper placement from the Central Station as planned, but to avoid destroying any cables by snagging them with one of their boots, as John Young had done on Apollo 16.
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