Geologist Walks On The Moon

Just four hours after touchdown, the crew began the first of their three planned lunar EVAs. Wearing his bulky spacesuit and life support system backpack, Cernan had eased himself backward through Challenger's tiny hatch, descended the fragile ladder and then stood on the footpad for a few moments of contemplation. As he placed his left foot firmly into the thin lunar crust he said, "As I step off at the surface of Taurus-Littrow, I'd like to dedicate the first steps of Apollo 17 to all those who made it possible.''

Schmitt would follow a few minutes later, but as he set foot on the Moon his left boot slipped on the side of a rock encrusted with small beads of glass and he began to topple. He grasped the ladder tightly, tried again, and was soon standing safely beside Cernan. The two astronauts spent the next few moments looking around, describing the rugged landing site and expressing surprise at how bright it was in the sun. The scientist in Schmitt could wait a few more moments; what he saw was breathtaking.

"Only later, when I could walk a few tens of metres from the Challenger, did the full and still unexpected impact of the awe-inspiring setting hit me: a brilliant sun, brighter than any desert sun, fully illuminated valley walls outlined against a blacker-than-black sky, with our beautiful, blue-and-white marbled Earth, about a two-thirds Earth in terms of its phase, hanging over the south-western mountains.''8

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