Keeping time on the moon...
You’re out for a drive, 250,000 miles from Earth. Your flight leaves in 64 minutes. How did the crew of Apollo 17 make it?
Posted: 21 Nov 2012
Already 40 minutes behind schedule, he had to cut short his test drive. There was much Moon farming to be done over the next few days, as they gathered 220 pounds of rocks and samples for the geologists back home. Best to get some sleep first. But unlike his co-pilot, Harrison ‘Jack' Schmitt, Cernan wasn't a scientist. He was a Navy fighter pilot, and an occasionally crashy one at that. So wasn't he tempted just to keep on driving, ripping up the grey dust in a sort of alien grand prix? "Had we been able to stay outside the LEM [Lunar Excursion Module] for longer than the seven to eight hours at a time, we could have," says Cernan. "And we were tempted to ‘drive around the corner' and see what was on the other side of the mountain."
Back inside the tiny module, both men wriggled out of their suits and slouched into their tight hammocks, relaxing in their liquid-cooled underpants while examining Moon rocks. Outside, during their first extraterrestrial walkabout, Cernan said that time had "galloped away". Inside, it almost ground to a halt. And, to make things worse, he was now fixated on the frustratingly slow ticks of two watches: the one he wore under his suit and the one he usually wore outside but had now affixed to his other wrist. "When outside the spacecraft, we never had enough time to do what we needed and wanted to do," he says. "Inside, it seemed like a total waste of time to be resting and not taking advantage to do everything possible during the three days we were on the Moon."