Everyone knows the first words that were said on the moon, but what about the last? 40 years ago yesterday we left the moon for the last time, so now’s as good a time as any to ask. The answer? Well there are a few and you can pick which one you like better.
As Commander Eugene Cernan stood on the moon’s surface before climbing back into the Apollo 17 module and blasting off towards home, he recited a little speech, fitting to be the last words on the body. It went like this:
“I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”
But then there was the matter of launch and that’s where things get a little cloudy. According to the book The All-American Boys by Walter Cunningham, the last thing said before blast-off was “Let’s get this mutha outta here,” as uttered by Cernan. After some digging through transcripts however, The Atlantic found a more likely and less awesome version of the line: “Okay. Now, let’s get off. Forget the camera. [Garbled]…” to be followed by a mundane countdown and, of course, “ignition.”
Whatever the case may be, we don’t count any pre-walking quotes as the first, so any post-walking quotes are likely disqualified for the last, on a technicality if nothing else. Still, the last words on the moon stand as their own little mystery that sits between those two brackets and it’ll probably stay that way unless we get up there and make some new ones. [The Atlantic]