Speedy Tuesday: Today Marks The Return Of The Last Apollo Mission On December 19th 1972
Apollo 17 was the last mission to the Moon. The decision to cancel Apollo 18 and 19 missions was already done in 1971 and based on budget cuts. Apollo 20 was already cancelled before (in 1969). The Apollo 17 mission, while being the last one to go to the Moon, was the first to have a night launch on December 7th 1972. It put the first geologist on the Moon (Harrison Schmitt) and they brought back 110.4KG of samples. The Apollo 17 mission took 12 days and the three astronauts (Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrisson Smith) returned safely on Earth again on December 19th, 1972. Exactly 45 years ago today.
The total surface EVA time was 22 hours and 2 minutes. Enough time to collect the 110.4KG of sample material, drive the Lunar Rover (landed on the Moon with Apollo 15) and do some further investigations.
Last Man on The Moon
If you haven’t done so, I recommend that you watch the documentary The Last Man on the Moon. You can find it on Netflix (at least for now). It tells Eugene Cernan’s story about the last mission to the Moon. You will also find your share of Speedmasters in that movie, of course.
Earlier this year, on January 16th, the last man on the Moon – Eugene Cernan – passed away. Ron Evans already passed away in 1990 at the young age of 56. Only Harrison Schmitt is still with us.
Speedmaster 145.022 Near The Moon
During the Apollo 17 flight, the astronauts used their Speedmaster watches of course. The caliber 321 models that were sent to NASA were also used during this mission. Ron Evans however, also used a caliber 861 Speedmaster for some scientific tests on board. It was attached to an instrument panel. It might have been the caliber 861 Speedmaster that was closest to the Moon, at least from what we know today. We captured his watch last year during a visit in Bienne.
Speedmaster Apollo 17 Limited Editions
As always, and this sounds perhaps more negative than I intend it to be, Omega commemorates the Apollo 17 with a limited edition watch. We’ve talked about the stainless steel version for this year of the Apollo 17 limited edition here. A cool watch that definitely looks better in the flesh than on the pictures, as you really need to see the ‘blue’ tones yourself. This watch is now being delivered to the boutiques and retailers and in total, there will be 1972 of them. Corresponding with the year of the mission. Besides that, there’s also a gold version of 272 pieces (which we talked about here). At first, there were only 72 of them planned, but Omega decided to increase that number. Some people were a bit upset about this, for others it meant they also had the opportunity to purchase one. It is currently the only Speedmaster Professional available in gold. Omega having increased the production by 200 pieces, it might be an indicator for them that there’s room for a gold Speedmaster Professional in the normal production. Unfortunately, the Moonwatch in gold was discontinued a few years ago.
Eugene ‘Gene’ Cernan was an ambassador for Omega for a long time, and last time I’ve seen him perform was in Houston, during the 2015 Speedmaster Event (report here) that was held there. Together with Lovell (Apollo 13, Apollo 8, Gemini 12, Gemini 7) and Stafford (Apollo 10, Gemini 9A, Apollo-Soyuz, Gemini 6A) he was on stage and talked about the space missions and the role of the Speedmaster. It was also that event where I saw the command module of the Apollo 17 at the NASA visitor center in Houston and decided – in a candid moment – to scratch my Moonwatch on the door of the module. It didn’t leave a scratch on the Command Module, but my Speedmaster has a severe mark on the case band.
Before, there were already two commemorative editions for the Apollo 17 mission, both dedicated to the Last Man on the Moon, Gene Cernan. The previous model was not a good seller (but this might become a collectible edition after all), with its silver coin dial. Our reader and friend Larry sent us an image of Gene Cernan and his 2012 Apollo 17 limited edition. This watch was also limited to 1972 pieces. If you find one, try it on the wrist, I actually liked it.
In 2002, there was another commemorative edition for the 30th anniversary of the Last man on the Moon. Limited to 3000 pieces, but only the case back revealed its association with this mission. Then, in 1997, there was a Missions case with 22 mission patch watches and a ’57 re-edition. There was also an Apollo 17 mission patch model in there, and later sold separately (100-150 pieces only). There were 50 Mission cases in total, but only 40 of them were officially sold on the market. 10 of them were used for other purposes.
So, today marks a special day. With the landing of the Apollo 17 not only the missions ended. It was also the end of an era, the Apollo program. Those who are fortunate enough to have received their 2017 Apollo 17 Speedmaster limited edition, I urge you to wear it – especially – today. To all owners of other Speedmaster models, you should wear yours as well.
Happy Speedy Tuesday!