Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Apollo astronaut supports return to the Moon



Nearly 40 years after the Apollo 17 Moon launch on 7 December 1972, former NASA astronaut Harrison Schmitt said there is “no question” that the Moon is still worth going to, “whether you think about the science of the Moon or the resources of the Moon, or its relationship to accelerating our progress toward Mars.” Schmitt, a geologist and the lunar module pilot for that final Apollo mission, was speaking at a 6 December news briefing about lunar science at the AGU Fall Meeting. “By going back to the Moon, you accelerate your ability to go anywhere else,” Schmitt said, because of the ability to gain experience on a solar system body just a 3-day journey from Earth; test new hardware and navigation and communication techniques; and utilize lunar resources such as water, hydrogen, methane, and helium-3. He said lunar missions also would be a way “to develop new generations of people who know how to work in deep space. The people who know how to work [there] are my age, if not older, and we need young people to get that kind of experience.” Schmitt, 77, said that a particularly interesting single location to explore would be the Aitken Basin at the Moon's south pole, where a crater may have reached into the Moon's upper mantle. He also said a longer duration exploration program might be able to explore multiple sites.