Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon, has revealed he left a camera on the lunar surface, hoping it would be recovered by future astronauts.
The camera used to capture many of the iconic images from the mission, was left with its lens pointing into space.
Cernan had hoped it could be used as the mission’s final experiment, with future astronauts measuring the radiation collected on the lens.
Speaking on the 40th anniversary of the mission, Cernan expressed regret his footprints are still the last left on the moon.
Now 78, he thought his voyage ‘wasn’t the end but the beginning’ for manned exploration of the Moon — and that he thought an astronaut would have set foot on Mars by the end of the century.
Three further missions planned to follow Cernan’s crew were scrapped due to budget cuts.
Now, he admits leaving his camera may have been a mistake.
“I left my Hasselblad camera there with the lens pointing up at the zenith, the idea being someday someone would come back and find out how much deterioration solar cosmic radiation had on the glass. So, going up the ladder, I never took a photo of my last footstep. How dumb! Wouldn’t it have been better to take the camera with me, get the shot, take the film pack off and then (for weight restrictions) throw the camera away?”
He called for manned space exploration programmes to be accelerated.
“I do think we need to go to the moon first to set up a base so we can use more advanced propulsion techniques,” he said.
“Am I willing to go to Mars? Yes, but I’m not willing to spend nine months getting there, then wait 18 more months until the planets align to come home. For Mars we need propulsion technologies to get us there in say, 60 days, then spend whatever length of time we want to spend — two months, six months — and return when we want to come home. That will require ion and nuclear propulsion and help form a base on the moon.”