Astronaut Geologist Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot

Courtesy of the US embassy in Malta
and the Department of Physics, University of Malta
with the IYA 2009 Malta committee

The Department of Physics of the University of Malta in collaboration with the  International Year of Astronomy 2009 Malta Committee and the United States Embassy is proud to host two talks by Senator Harrison Schmitt on the 22nd and 23rd of April 2009.




Date: Wednesday 22nd April 2009

Time: 18:30-19:30

Place: Erin Serracino Inglott Hall, University of Malta, Tal-Qroqq



Date: Thursday 23rd April 2009

Time: 18:30-19:30

Place: Room 401 Mathematics and Physics building, University of Malta, Tal-Qroqq


Attendance to both talks is free of charge and open to the public. The Wednesday talk is intended for the general public while the Thursday talk will be more suited to persons with an interest in space exploration and the audience would ideally include academics and science students over the age of 16 years, although members of the public with a science background and an interest in the topic are also welcome. Those wishing to attend are encouraged to register by sending an email to physics.sci@um.edu.mt, with the date or dates of their selected talk/talks in the subject caption.

The audience for both talks is requested to be seated at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start. Following the presentation Senator Harrison will take questions from the audience.

Concise Biography: Senator Schmitt is a geologist who was involved in NASA’s Apollo space program. He was the lunar module pilot of the Apollo 17 mission and is the only scientist ever to travel to the moon. Following this mission, Senator Schmitt was appointed a Professor of Engineering Physics, became a US Senator, Chairman of the NASA Advisory Council, founder and Chairman of Interlune Intermars Initiative Inc. and an author.


Physics Department University of Malta

Astronaut Geologist Harrison Schmitt on the moon next to the US flag with the earth in the distance

Apollo 17 – living on the moon.

Astronaut to visit Malta


This year marks the 40th anniversary of when man first walked on the moon. On the 20th July 1969 the lunar module ‘Eagle’ landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin explored the moon’s surface. This was the legacy of the slain President John F Kennedy who challenged the United States of America in 1961 to “land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth, before the decade is out”.


There was a lot more to the Apollo programme than the flight of Apollo 11. Born to restore America’s prestige and to beat the Russians in the ‘space race’, Apollo was a massive programme costing $24 billion and employing 400,000 people (equivalent to the population of Malta). ‘Mankind’s greatest adventure’ was also one of his most expensive ventures!


Initially the US flew the small Mercury and Gemini spacecraft in earth orbit to test equipment and try out procedures. The first Apollo flew in October 1968 and in December Apollo 8 flew to the moon, Apollos 9 and 10 were further test flights to evaluate the hardware before the first landing. The pace was extraordinary and the achievement of a lunar landing was remarkable. Subsequent to Apollo 11 there were further flights to the moon, each one increasing in complexity and duration, except for the problematic Apollo 13, on which there was an explosion.


The last manned flight to the moon was Apollo 17. This lifted off at a spectacular night-time launch on 7th December 1972. The exhaust gases from the five enormous rocket engines of the majestic Saturn V rocket turned night into day. This was an auspicious start to the most successful of the Apollo flights. On each of the preceding flights there were incremental improvements and rovers were being taken to the moon to increase the area that could be explored. On the flight of Apollo 17 the Apollo spacecraft was stretched to the limits. On this flight the astronauts lived on the surface for three days and actually walked about for 22 hours, a lot longer than the two and a half hours of Apollo 11.  


Apollo 17 was commanded by Eugene Cernan, a naval aviator and an engineer who had flown in space on Gemini IX and had traveled to the moon (without landing) on Apollo 10. The command module pilot was Ronald Evans, another naval aviator and engineer who had never flown in space before. All the other Apollo astronauts had similar experience and training as Cernan and Evans. Apollo 17, however, was very special because the lunar module pilot was a scientist, the only scientist to fly to the moon. Harrison Schmitt was born in 1935. He received his B.S. from Caltech and he studied as a Fulbright Scholar at Oslo, and attended graduate school at Harvard. Geological field studies in Norway formed the basis of his Ph.D. in 1964. As a civilian, Schmitt received Air Force jet pilot wings in 1965 and Navy helicopter wings in 1967, logging more than 2100 hours of flying time. Harrison Schmitt was selected for the Scientist-Astronaut program in 1965 and he organized the lunar science training for the Apollo Astronauts and represented the crews during the development of hardware and procedures for lunar surface exploration, and oversaw the final preparation of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Descent Stage.  He served as Mission Scientist in support of the Apollo 11 mission and trained as back-up lunar module pilot for Apollo 15.  On Apollo 17 he performed a field trip like no other geologist would ever do!


Using a motorized rover Cernan and Schmitt traveled some 30 kilometres over the surface of the moon named Taurus-Littrow. They explored the whole valley in which they landed making observations, hammering chips of rocks and collecting a total of 110kg of moon rocks which they brought back to earth.


Following Apollo 17 Schmitt managed NASA's Energy Program Office and he later served a six-year term in the U.S. Senate beginning in 1977. Harrison Schmitt became Chairman of the NASA Advisory Council in November 2005, and served until October 2008.

He presently is Chair Emeritus of The Annapolis Center (risk assessment) and is Adjunct Professor of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, teaching "Resources from Space."

In 1997, Schmitt co-founded and became Chairman of Interlune-Intermars Initiative, Inc., advancing the private sector's acquisition of lunar resources and Helium-3 fusion power and clinical use of medical isotopes produced by fusion-related processes. He is the author of "Return to the Moon" (2006 Springer-Praxis) that describes a private enterprise approach to providing lunar helium-3 fusion energy resources for use on Earth.


Biographical sketch 

A field trip to the moon by Harrison Schmitt

Sunday Times Interview 10.05.09


Kennedy's vision for Apollo
Apollo programme

Apollo programme (IYA site)

Where no man has gone before

Apollo 17 press kit

All Apollo 17 pics

Apollo 17 high resolution pics

Project Apollo Drawings and Technical Diagrams

Apollo Lunar Surface Journal

Apollo Program Summary Report

More about Apollo

Broken fender on the moon

Teacher's guide to the moon

The Moon Our Stepping Stone in Creating a Spacefaring Civilization

  There have been 176579 visitors (458810 hits) on this page!  
This website was created for free with Own-Free-Website.com. Would you also like to have your own website?
Sign up for free