Towards the North Massif

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Once on the rover, the lunar explorers drove four kilometers toward the North Massif and observed tracks marking the paths of boulders that had rolled down the face of the Massif. Roughly half way to their Station 6 stop, Schmitt took a soil sample using the LRV Sampler after Cernan had stopped the rover. They then came upon a sizable boulder in their path, and Cernan drove the rover completely around it as Schmitt took photographs. This boulder was identified as Turning Point Rock, estimated at more than six meters in height. As they moved on to the North Massif, Cernan spotted a large split boulder on the slope of the massif. This would be their Station 6 stop. This boulder had split into smaller boulders after rolling down the

Harrison Schmitt photographed Eugene Cernan next to the LRV at the end of the third EVA, with the South Massif prominently in the background. Note the reflection on the gold mesh of the high-gain antenna from the radiator surface of the TV camera. The thermal blankets of the LCRU are pulled back to help dissipate heat. (NASA)

Harrison Schmitt photographed Eugene Cernan next to the LRV at the end of the third EVA, with the South Massif prominently in the background. Note the reflection on the gold mesh of the high-gain antenna from the radiator surface of the TV camera. The thermal blankets of the LCRU are pulled back to help dissipate heat. (NASA)

North Massif, breaking apart when it finally came to rest. Cernan parked the rover on a heading of 107 degrees as Houston had requested, but he was on a considerable slope, which he and Schmitt conveyed to Houston. The dust covers were opened at this first science station stop. The High-Gain Antenna was aligned and the TV camera turned on. Cernan recalled for this author just how challenging the slope at Station 6 was.

"Where that boulder was, I took the pan, those pictures of the boulder and the valley,'' he said during the interview. "That hill was on the North Massif and that doesn't look very steep, but let me tell you that was a very steep hill. I had to climb up there and I left the rover down by the rock, and you can see how the rover is leaning. That was a very steep hill.''

While Schmitt examined the split boulder, Cernan walked around the rover to dust portions of it off. The steepness of the slope and the angle at which the rover was parked made it difficult to get around the vehicle. Cernan continued to comment on the severity of the slope they were on. The split boulder itself was on an even steeper portion of the slope, as Cernan had mentioned. Together, Cernan and Schmitt took samples from around the boulder fragments and shadowed soil samples from beneath the boulder overhang. Then Cernan retrieved his hammer and chipped some pieces from the boulder itself. The astronauts made sure to take before and after photos of the sampling area before putting the samples in their respective bags. Schmitt gave his detailed observations of the boulder for Houston. Later in their Station 6 stop, Cernan reported visible dents in the wire mesh on two of the rover's wheels, and Bob Parker wanted more specific information from Cernan.

"A little golf-ball size or smaller indentation in the mesh. How does that sound to you? Doesn't hurt anything,'' Cernan replied matter-of-factly.

"That sounds like a dented tire; that's how it sounds,'' Parker answered.

A core tube sample was also taken at the site. Cernan felt compelled to name the distinctive boulder Tracy's Rock, after his daughter. A portion of the boulder had a thick layer of lunar soil, which Schmitt had sampled, but Cernan wished later that he had written Tracy's name in the soil, where it would have remained for eternity. Cernan and Schmitt spent more than an hour at Station 6 before stowing their priceless samples and equipment and returning to the rover. They closed the dust covers, buckled up and moved on to Station. 7

The Station 7 stop was 475 m away from Station 6 near the base of the North Massif. It would be a short stop of ten to fifteen minutes. Cernan and Schmitt scouted for other boulders as they drove towards their next stop. Cernan stopped near a boulder more than two meters high and they got off to begin their sampling. They broke fragments off with their hammer and took further soil samples. Houston also wanted them to pick up a FSR, an acronym for a Football-Sized Rock. This EVA proved that the two astronauts were quite comfortable in handling their tools, taking photographs, communicating their observations to Houston, and moving about on the lunar surface. They stowed their samples and tools on the rover, climbed aboard, buckled up, and made for Station 8 near the Sculptured Hills, staying close to their EVA timeline.

Unlike the Cuff Check Lists used on Apollo 15 and 16, small traverse maps were included in the Cuff Check Lists for Apollo 17 at Eugene Cernan's suggestion, and they proved an immense aid to Cernan and Schmitt as they drove from station to station. Cernan later likened it to a geologic flight plan. On the way to Station 8, they spotted some boulders similar to those they had sampled at Station 6.

"It looks like they're probably the same thing that we sampled, Schmitt observed. "They have the inclusions in them, white inclusions. They look like a mixture of the gray of the re-crystallized breccia, and the tan-gray of the anorthositic gabbro.''

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