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This Day In History: The Apollo Lunar-Landing Program Ends

December 19, 2016

This day in history, the Apollo lunar-landing program ended on December 19, 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida 10 days before. In July 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11.

From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions and one aborted mission: the Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the Lunar Rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

Although Apollo 17 was the last lunar landing, the last official Apollo mission was conducted in July 1975, when an Apollo spacecraft successfully rendezvoused and docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. It was fitting that the Apollo program, which first visited the moon under the banner of “We came in peace for all mankind,” should end on a note of peace and international cooperation.

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