Astronaut Scholarship Foundation

Created By The Mercury 7 Astronauts

Harrison Schmitt

Harrison Schmitt

As Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 17, the final Apollo moon mission, Harrison H. Schmitt was the only geologist to explore the lunar surface.

Schmitt was born July 3, 1935, in Santa Rita, New Mexico. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in science from the California Institute of Technology in 1957 and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Geology from Harvard University in 1964.

He had geological assignments with the Norwegian Geological Survey on the west coast of Norway and for the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico and Montana. He also worked two summers as a geologist in Alaska. Schmitt was involved in photo and telescopic mapping of the moon with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Center at Flagstaff, Arizona, when NASA selected him in June 1965 in its first group of scientist-astronauts.

Because he was not a pilot, as all previous astronauts were, he attended a 53-week course in flight training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, receiving his Air Force jet pilot wings and later his Navy helicopter wings. While training for a moon mission, Schmitt provided Apollo flight crews with detailed instruction in lunar navigation, geology and feature recognition. He also assisted in the integration of scientific activities into Apollo missions and helped analyze lunar soil samples returned by the astronauts.

Schmitt originally was assigned to the Apollo 18 crew, but when that flight was cancelled because of a tight NASA budget, he was moved up to Apollo 17 so that the trained eye of a geologist could examine the moon on the final Apollo journey.

Apollo 17 was launched December 7, 1972, and three days later Schmitt and Commander Gene Cernan landed their moonship “Challenger” in a mountain-ringed valley named Taurus-Littrow, while Ron Evans orbited overhead in the Command Module “America.” “It’s a good geologist’s paradise if I’ve ever seen one!” Schmitt exclaimed as he followed Cernan to the surface for the first of three Lunar Rover excursions over as many days. On December 19, the last men of the historic Apollo program came home, splashing to a safe landing in the Pacific Ocean.

Schmitt resigned from NASA in 1975 to run for the U.S. Senate in his home state of New Mexico. He was elected November 2, 1976, and served one six-year term. In his last two years, he was chairman of the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. He currently is a business and technical consultant living in Albuquerque. Schmitt serves on the Board of Trustees of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Harrison Schmitt was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on October 4, 1997.