Apollo 17: Landing site and memorable ending
Still with a geologist as part of the crew, subsequent Apollo missions focused on science and Taurus-Littrow was chosen as Apollo 17's next destination. The reason that location was chosen was due its geologic variety. Shorty Crater and more than a few large boulders seen in photographs taken by the Apollo 15 crew were other points of interest to the scientists.
The launch was delayed for about 3 hours due to a minor technical error, however the crew departed on December 17, 1972 as scheduled. After three days without any major incident, Cernan and Schmitt landed on the surface of lunar module Challenger, while Evans remained in the command module in America.
The first major challenge encountered by Cernan and Schmitt was when Cernan broke a wheel fender on their lunar rover accidentally. This resulted in astronauts being covered in coarse moon dust while they moved about on the surface. Cernan was able to fix it temporarily with a duct tape and jokingly asked to be rewarded for his mending skills. The following day, some maps were taped by Cernan and Schmitt in place of the fender to fix the problem better.
Most notable among the several scientific experiments deployed by the astronauts was a traverse gravimeter. This experiment was carried out on the Rover by the astronauts and was taken to several sites to check relative gravity, providing scientists with an idea of the substructure of the lunar.
In lunar orbit, Evans observed the surface and entertained Mission Control by joking about how horrible he smelt.
Orange soil and a memorable ending...
On the second day, while Cernan and Schmitt were working close to the edge of Shorty Crater, Schmitt shouted that he could see soil that was orange in color. As written in Cernan's autobiography, Cernan feared Schmitt had probably overdosed on rocks as he'd been up in space for too long.
However, when Cernan went over to have a look, he confirmed that the color of the soil was indeed orange. Upon further assessment on Earth, it was disovered that the rocks were minute spheres of colored glass which possibly got there through a surface vent.
After they had done all the science they could within the short period provided, the crew gathered their equipment and climbed into the Challenger for the very last time. Cernan, all by himself on the surface, gave a short speech and concluded that he'd like to have it on record that America's challenge of today has formed the destiny of man tomorrow ... wishing the crew of Apollo 17 Godspeed.
On the way back to Earth, Evans got an opportunity to do a quick spacewalk, recovering some of the film canisters placed outside America. On December 19, the crew splashed down in the South Pacific Ocean.
The lunar exploration performed by Apollo 17 lasted 22 hours and in the words of Andrew Chaikin a spaceflight author, pushed Apollo to its limit. The astronauts travelled for almost 34 kilometers in the lunar rover and came back with lunar rocks weighing 108 kilograms.
The Apollo 17 astronauts also left behind a plaque that read:
"Here Man completed his first exploration of the Moon, December 1972 A.D. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind."