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Working on Man's Return to the Moon
Harrison H. Schmitt
			Apollo 17 Astronaut
			Adjunct Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison Harrison H. Schmitt Photo
It has been more than 30 years since humans last landed on the Moon. And now, the Moon is gaining our attention again. NASA has announced that they will send humans to the Moon in 2018, China has been making steady progress with its lunar exploration project, and Japan's SELENE is going to be launched soon. Harrison Schmitt, who was one of the astronauts of APOLLO 17, the last mission of the APOLLO project, and was also the only scientist (a geologist), talks about lunar exploration, and the future of space development. Harrison H. Schmitt Photo
Harrison Schmitt was born in 1935, in the state of New Mexico. He received a B.Sc. in science from the California Institute of Technology in 1957, and a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University in 1964.
			Selected for the Scientist-Astronaut program in 1965, Schmitt organized the lunar science training for the Apollo astronauts, and represented the crews during the development of hardware and procedures for lunar surface exploration. On December 11, 1972, he landed on the moon as the lunar module pilot of Apollo 17, the last Apollo mission to the moon. He is the only scientist and the last of 12 men to step on the moon.
			Schmitt served in the U.S. Senate from 1977 to 1982, representing his home state of New Mexico. Today, he consults, speaks, and writes on policy issues relating to the future, space, and the science of the Moon. He is advancing the private sector's acquisition of lunar resources and Helium-three fusion power.
What was your feeling when you stepped onto the surface of the moon for the first time?
The first feeling I had was how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to represent not only my country but humankind on the moon. And then the second thought was just how beautiful it was. It's a land of contrast, with brilliantly illuminated slopes from a bright sun, as bright as any sun you've every seen, and then a black sky, just an absolutely black sky. Of course in the sky over the southwestern mountains, which were 2,100 meters high, was this Earth of ours as a three-quarter Earth, a beautiful blue marble in space.
You were the only scientist to land on the moon. How important is it for scientists to participate in space exploration?
  [Apollo17 Launched on December 7,1972](Courtesy of NASA)
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The main reason you want to have a scientist work on the moon, or a specialist work in any area in space, as well as here on Earth, is that they bring a history of experience in their field that can help them work more efficiently and more intelligently on the problem at hand.
The field geologist with 15 years experience is going to be able to decide what is important and what isn't much faster than even a very well trained pilot who does not have that experience. We did train our astronaut pilots to be good observers, to understand the problems they were working on, but there's no substitute for experience, whether it's in medicine or in any other field that might be important in space.
You certainly wouldn't want a geologist operating on your heart. You'd want a doctor with a lot of experience operating on your heart. Well, when you did exploration on the moon you wanted somebody with experience, such as a geologist, to do that exploration. So I think it's very important to have scientists.
It's very important to have human beings in space because they bring a wonderful computer called the brain. They bring a wonderful optical system called the eyes, and they bring hands that can manipulate things as precisely or more precisely than many robots in that environment. There are some things that robots will be able to do much better than humans, particularly when there's just routine information to be gathered. But we would be very remiss if we didn't use the best of robots and the best of human beings in space.
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