It was 1:54PM Houston time on December 11, 1972, and four days, fourteen hours, twenty-two minutes and eleven seconds since we had blasted off from Florida. I paused for a moment and slowly exhaled after making one of the smoothest landings of my career. - The Last Man on the Moon.
More than two and a half hours of unrelenting dynamic action and steely tension had drained my senses since we undocked from "America", and now everything came to an abrupt stop. Instant silence reigned. Not a word from Jack, who was as stunned as I, no pounding rocket, no vibration, no noise. Not the sound of a bird, the bark of a dog, not a whisper of wind or any familiar sound from my entire life... for a brief moment I stopped breathing too. Then there was nothing at all.
I lowered my left foot and the thin crust gave way. Soft contact. There, it was done. A Cernan footprint was on the moon. I had fulfilled my dream. No one could ever take this moment away. I said, "As I step off at the surface of Taurus-Littrow, I'd like to dedicate the first steps of Apollo Seventeen to all those who made it possible." I called Houston: "Oh, my golly. Unbelievable." I felt comfortable, as if I belonged there. I was standing on God's front porch.
The question that I am asked most frequently is: "Did going to the Moon change you?" I would like to think that I am the same person I have always been. But how could having lived on another planet not force at least some sort of change? Walking on the Moon and walking on Main Street are two entirely different experiences. I can always walk on Main Street again, but I can never return to my valley of Taurus-Littrow, and that cold fact has left me with a yearning restlessness. It was perhaps the brightest moment of my life, and I can't go back. I am one of only twelve human beings to have stood on the Moon. I have come to accept that, and the enormous responsibility it carries, but as for finding a suitable encore, nothing has ever come close.
Watch the spectacular nighttime launch of Apollo 17.
See video of Capt. Cernan on the moon; Apollo 17.
Watch the lunar duo's unique singing presentation.
APOLLO 17 MISSION: Read NASA's summary here.
See the Apollo XVII Command Module at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.