On December 14, 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 was on the long homebound leg of their journey to the Moon. Astronaut Harrison Schmitt and mission commander Gene Cernan had just completed an intense, three-day exploration of a lunar valley called Taurus-Littrow. As they and command module pilot Ron Evans settled in for the comparative monotony of the three-day trip back to Earth, Mission Control in Houston radioed up a message from President Richard Nixon.
Buried in the platitudes about exploration and national pride, one line hit Harrison Schmitt right between the eyes: "This may be the last time in this century that men will walk on the Moon." While possibly true, given the budget cuts imposed on NASA, Schmitt thought it was unwise for the president to simply dismiss any reasonable chance humans might return to pick up where he and Cernan left off. He still feels that way.
Nearly 45 years later, Harrison Schmitt says it's time to go back to the Moon. This time, the goal isn't rudimentary exploration, but economic exploitation. An isotope called helium-3 could be a more powerful, less pollutive source of energy. There's hardly any on Earth, but there is likely tons of it mixed into the soil of the Moon.
On this edition of The Method, Harrison Schmitt tells Brandon Hollingsworth about his advocacy for lunar exploration and what it might take to get humans back to the planet's closest neighbor.
This edition also features WUOT's Megan Jamerson in conversation with Carson-Newman University professor Lisa Flannery. They'll discuss the science of darkroom photography.