(WHTM) — Just a few days ago, on December 11, the United States completed the first step in sending human beings back to the moon, when an unmanned Orion spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, bringing a successful end to the 25 1/2-day Artemis I mission.

It was exactly 50 years to the day that the last Apollo mission landed there. And today, December 13, is the 50th anniversary of the last moonwalk.

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On December 7, 1972, Apollo 17 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On board were Mission Commander Eugene Cernan, Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt (a trained geologist and the first scientist-astronaut on a moon mission), and Command Module Pilot Ron Evans. Command Module America and Lunar Module Challenger entered orbit around the Moon on December 10. The Lunar Module separated from the Command Module on December 11, landing in an area known as the Taurus-Littrow region. Cernan and Schmitt started their first EVA about four hours after landing.

In all, the Apollo 17 crew spent 22 hours performing three “Extravehicular Activities” – moonwalks. Challenger carried a Lunar Roving Vehicle, commonly known as a “moon buggy”. With the LRV the astronauts could cover a larger area than they could by walking. Overall the moon buggy traversed 30.5 kilometers (22 miles). The astronauts gathered 110.4 kilograms (243 pounds) of material from a number of different locations. They also set up scientific experiments, took lots of pictures, and fixed a broken fender on the moon buggy with duct tape. Their third and final EVA began at 10:25:48 p.m. on December 13 and ended at 5:40:56 a.m. on December 14. Challenger lifted off from the moon later that day.

Ron Evans performed a spacewalk on the way back, recovering cameras and instruments mounted on the outside of the spacecraft. America splashed down in the Pacific on December 19.

Three more Apollo missions were planned, but never happened. America’s interests turned elsewhere. Saturn rocket components were used for the Skylab space station, but NASA’s energies were channeled into creating a reusable “space truck”-the Space Shuttle. But going back to the moon was an idea for “sometime in the future”.

But now we’re trying for the moon again, this time with an eye to establishing permanent bases. An unmanned Orion spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:40 p.m. Eastern Time, bringing a successful end to the 25 1/2-day Artemis I mission. Artemis 2, the first crewed mission, is planned for 2024, with an actual Moon landing in 2025.