London: The last man to walk on the Moon, Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan, has revealed how he left his camera behind on the lunar surface 40 years ago only to find that no one went back to collect it for him.
Cernan`s camera is still sitting exactly where it was left with its lens pointing out into space - an experiment into solar cosmic radiation he hoped could be collected by future astronauts.
But 40 years on, Cernan’s departing footprints remain the last to be planted on the lunar surface as NASA budget cutbacks eventually forced the closure of the Apollo programme.
Speaking ahead of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 17 launch, the retired U.S. Navy captain and veteran of three space flights said he still remembers the image of his last footprint as he left the Moon, but that he wished he had the photograph to prove it.
“I left my Hasselblad camera there with the lens pointing up at the zenith, the idea being someday someone would come back and find out how much deterioration solar cosmic radiation had on the glass,” the BBC quoted Cernan as saying.
“So, going up the ladder, I never took a photo of my last footstep. How dumb! Wouldn’t it have been better to take the camera with me, get the shot, take the film pack off and then (for weight restrictions) throw the camera away?” he said.
Back in 1972, the 78-year-old thought his voyage “wasn’t the end but the beginning” for manned exploration of the Moon, and believed that an astronaut would have set foot on Mars by the end of the century.
Instead, NASA’s budget began to decline and three further missions planned to follow Cernan’s crew were scrapped, bringing an end to the “golden age” of space flight.