Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Today is Important For Another Reason

Yes, it's Pearl Harbor day, the day that will live forever in infamy.  A moment (or several) of reverent silence and gratitude is totally appropriate.  It's also a very important day for a completely different reason.  

Today is the 50th anniversary of the start of the Apollo 17 mission, the last Apollo mission and the last time people from anywhere on Earth traveled to the moon, explored and came home.  Launched at 12:33 AM ET on December 7th, 1972, the mission featured a geologist as the lunar module pilot, Harrison "Jack" Schmidt.  The Mission Commander was Eugene Cernan, and the Command Module Pilot, also known as the loneliest man in the solar system, was Ron Evans.

Apollo 17 crew: Commander Gene Cernan is seated in the front, with Harrison Schmidt standing left and Ron Evans standing right.  NASA photo from August of 1972.  

For a lot of years, I've marked the date of Apollo 11's first moon landing and first steps on the moon with a meme that "Dr. Meme Generator", Aesop of Raconteur Report, created.  It refers to that day as being "Peak of Western Civilization Day."  While there are other potential candidates for that name, it's a good tag.  I think that tag could conceivably go with the launch of Voyager 2, now in its 45th year of a four year mission, but having people involved - manned missions to the moon - adds something.  That's all just discussion fodder, though. 

I'm at a loss for a similar name for Apollo 17.  It's certainly not the Nadir of Western Civilization; Western Civilization is still doing pretty well, comparatively speaking - witness the vast number of immigrants flooding into Europe and US.  It's just that the slope of decline, which was already happening between 1969 and 1972, seems to have tilted downhill a bit more.  The end of Apollo was an inflection point as the new dark ages (sometimes called "the endarkenment") approaches, but there have been other inflection points, some making the decline slower, some making it faster.  There will be more inflection points.

Perhaps we should just refer to the Apollo program itself as the Peak of Western Civilization.

I originally thought that instead of talking about Apollo 11 this year, I'd talk about this mission considering it the bookend milestone to that first landing.  Rather than a "mention something every day," approach, I'm anticipating a few smaller pieces along the way.  Today was a busy day, between launch and beginning the three day ride to the moon.  I don't anticipate much to say for a few days.

This is a "big deal" event and there are many places to look for details.  The local newspaper is renamed and reorganized version of the local fish wrapper during Apollo 17.  They may even still have people working or contributing there who were working there during the mission.  They have a picture rich feature story on the mission, "Apollo 17 at 50: Only night launch, last words from the moon, and a MacGyver fix."  There's a NASA webpage dedicated to the mission, but it doesn't seem to have been completed.  Called The Apollo 17 Flight Journal, it's well-detailed with audio clips and transcripts for today, but stops at Day 5 before they even landed on the moon.  That page directs to Apollo 17 in Real Time.  They're apparently suffering overload of viewers tonight and the site has crashed.  I was there earlier this evening and earlier in the week.  There's a single page summary of the mission at Watts Up With That, called "Apollo 17: 50th Anniversary of the Most Successful Manned Space Mission… So Far" written by a geologist and emphasizing some of the geology that the mission discovered.


  1. Yep. A nadir, as you said. If the follow-up next-gen Saturn/Apollo/NERVA would have been implemented, well, dang. So much potential, like the ancient Chinese treasure fleets. "Oh, we accomplished most of our goals, let's burn all the ships and factories and salt the earth."

    So much what could have been. And it all replaced by a far more expensive, not really reusable Shuttle system.

    Next-gen Saturn/Apollo was looking at lots of reusability, from recovering the engines from most to all iof the stages, reuse of upper stages as space taxis, extra boosting of 2nd stages to use as construction components, an Apollo capsule that would have been 75-85% reusable. Sooooo much promise.

    And now we have... the SLS, a reuse of Shuttle tech with no real new tech. That will only be launchable every 2-5 years.

    At this point, unless Communist China's economy collapses majorly, it looks like our solar system will belong to them. They will not share the Moon, Mars, Europa, Io, anywhere they can plant the flag.

    Come on, SpaceX, please hurry and save us from ourselves and the ChiComs.

    1. One of my vivid memories of the time was that the left was arguing we're spending too much money in space and we should be giving it to the inner cities. I remember somebody making that argument that you couldn't spend a penny in space. There were no gas stations, no 7-11s, nothing. It was all spent on Earth. Just not on what they wanted.

      Apollo was doomed pretty much as soon as we fulfilled JFK's goal and lost the support of the people who wanted it for his legacy.

      Like NASA today, the remarkable aspect is they got it done.

  2. Technologically, we have continued on, thanks in LARGE part to the very Space Program that basically bootstrapped the modern microcontrollers - but socially we've headed downhill since the '50s and we're gaining momentum.

  3. The Left was complaining the Space Program was a Moondoggle. There are POC's in the Ghetto starving. Now no more trips to the moon and trillions in Welfare, the POC's in the Ghetto still claim to be starving.

  4. The only thing the USG does with excellence is waste our money. Perhaps steal our money is a better term.

    1. To borrow a phrase, they also kill people and break things pretty well.