WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – A donation that was literally out of this world has found a permanent landing in the Purdue archives, thanks to the last man to walk on the moon.
“This (Purdue) is where it all started,” said astronaut Gene Cernan.
Now, at least for the mapbook, this is where it all ends.
On the floor of Keady Court, Cernan, Purdue class of ’56, donated the Lunar Roving Vehicle mapbook from Apollo 17 to Purdue University Thursday.
“I thought, what better place for it to be than Purdue? The idea of this archive is so youngsters 10, 15, 20, 25 years from now can see and feel and touch something that actually went to the surface,” said Cernan.
The Apollo 17 crew spent more than 22 hours exploring the surface of the moon over three days. The maps helped direct the crew to various locations to collect moon rocks and conduct various scientific experiments. In all, they brought back more than 243 pounds of moon rocks.
“Every piece of the data file that we took with us is not necessarily used. But it’s got to be there because if you need something and it’s not there, there’s no FedEx or anything,” said Cernan.
The entire mapbook isn’t here though.
Cernan wrecked the lunar rover, breaking off the fender. So using duct tape and four maps he hoped he didn’t need, he improvised the creation of a makeshift fender which was needed to keep the moon dust from hitting the astronauts on the rover. That fender is now in the Smithsonian.
“I’m the only car within a quarter of a million miles. I knock the fender off, I kept wondering where the roadside assistance was,” said Cernan.
The mapbook joins Cernan’s personal papers at Purdue’s Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives, which were donated in 2009.
“They’d be in a box in an attic somewhere. They’ve got value, particularly historical value,” said Cernan.
“These are materials that actually were on the surface of the moon. There aren’t many of those things in existence. They are one of a kind,” added Barron Hilton archivist Tracy Grimm.
For Cernan, that’s a bit of a bittersweet fact.
Since Apollo 17 returned back to earth in December 1972, no human has been back, meaning, for the last 41 years, Cernan has held the title of the last man on the moon.
“It’s a yoke I’ve carrying for too long. I thought we’d be back long before now,” said Cernan.