Our Last Manned Moon Mission Splashed Down 40 Years Ago TodayS

Contrary to the cries of conspiracy theorists, there was once a time when man traveled to the moon, and on this day in 1972, we made one last splashdown in the Pacific Ocean before cutting ties. Since then, mankind hasn't traveled more than 400 miles above the Earth's surface (the moon lies almost 240,000 miles above).

The three men aboard Apollo 17—Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. Schmitt—only called the moon their home for a little over three days, but their moonwalks were the longest ever carried out by an Apollo crew. They even carried home a record haul in moon rock souvenirs: 257 pounds-worth.

Our space dreams are, of course, not completely dashed; the Mars rover currently takes the spotlight, but man hasn't set foot on a celestial surface in quite some time. Hopefully (and if Newt Gingrich has his way) Apollo 17 won't have been the last. [Forbes]

Image: NASA's Human Spaceflight Gallery