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
The next morning they were woken by the Ride of the Valkyries, piped over the radio from Houston. Over the next few days, they'd take more drives among the craters and foothills of the towering mountains, making frequent stops to dig and drill. Eventually, they would cover a total of 19 miles - more than any previous mission... just as soon as Mission Control came up with a fix for a broken bumper, which Cernan had caught with the edge of a rock hammer on the first day. With a remedy including folded maps and screw clamps, they patched it up, though the churning wheels still sprayed soil right into the astronauts' visors. Despite this, Cernan managed to break the lunar speed record, at a stellar 8.7mph, while travelling down a steep hill.
It may have been great fun, but every sortie had a golden rule: they could never drive further than the distance they could walk back to the module. In such a weird place, measuring time and distance wasn't just useful: it was essential, and his Speedmaster was a life-support machine. It's no wonder Cernan says the watch was one of his most valued parts of the mission, not least because they weren't allowed any sort of personal trinkets up there. He still has it today, one of the few bits of Moon memorabilia the astronauts were allowed to keep, along with his mission patch and a rogue Playboy centrefold that mysteriously found its way into the pages of his flight plan.