This beta cloth Astronaut Preference Kit belonged to Apollo 17 Commander Gene Cernan "the last man on the moon" and was flown to the lunar surface. The APK was carried to lunar orbit in December 1972 aboard the Command Module America and was then transferred to the Lunar Module Challenger for the descent to the moon.
This bag remained on the moon inside the LM for more than three days, the longest stay of any lunar mission. After docking with the command module in lunar orbit after lunar surface operations, the APK was transferred back into America for the return trip to Earth. In total, this APK spent more than twelve and a half days in space, and a record of more than six days in lunar orbit or on the surface. It traveled a remarkable 1.3 million miles during the mission.
The Apollo 17 lunar landing site was the Taurus-Littrow highlands and valley area. This site was picked as a location where rocks both older and younger than those previously returned from other Apollo missions. Apollo 17 was the final in a series of three J-type missions planned for the Apollo program. These J-type missions can be distinguished from previous G and H-series missions by extended hardware capability, larger scientific payload capacity and by the use of the battery powered Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV).
APKs were permitted by NASA to contain items for the astronauts' personal use, or for use by them as personal gifts. APKs carried on board the Lunar Module were limited to just one half pound per astronaut.
The APK, marked "SEC 12100087-301 S/N 1007 ASTRONAUT KIT," appears in the Apollo Storage List for mission J-3, CM 114, LM-12 dated 12-12-72. The bag is approximately 4" x 8" x 1.5" with a drawstring top and original red wax seal. It has been cut open around the back near the top.
Also included in the collection is the original NASA Astronaut Preference Kit Release Form for this APK. The form (click the photo to see a larger image), signed by Gene Cernan and Tom Stafford, acknowledges receipt of the Astronaut Preference Kit from Command Module 114. Dated December 21, 1972 (two days after the return of Apollo 17), this official form shows all of the steps necessary for the transfer of the APK from NASA to Captain Cernan after the flight. At the time, Tom Stafford was Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations at the NASA Manned Spaceflight Center and was responsible for assisting the director in planning and implementation of programs for the astronaut group.
Apollo 17 was the first mission to be under scrutiny after the discovery of a stash of unauthorized postal covers that were flown on Apollo 15 and subsequently sold. Apollo 16 had already flown by the time of the Apollo 15 discovery. The Astronaut Preference Kit Policy permitted Apollo flight crew to carry certain items of a personal nature on each manned spacecraft flight and the items must have been carried in an approved Astronaut Preference Kit. The articles carried in the APK are for the astronauts' personal use, or for use by them as personal gifts.
We discussed the contents of the APK and he quickly recalled most of the items that he carried in the bag. He said that in total there were only about a dozen items flown to the lunar surface in his APK.
- American flag that had also flown on Gemini 9A and Apollo 10
- Gemini 9A patch that had also flown on Gemini 9A and Apollo 10
- Apollo 10 patch that had also flown on Apollo 10
- Apollo 17 patch
- Silver dollar that had also flown on Gemini 9A and Apollo 10
- $2.00 bill that had also flown on Gemini 9A and Apollo 10
- His mother’s rosary that had also flown on Gemini 9A and Apollo 10
- Photographs of his wife and daughter
- Three Apollo 17 gold medallions
- His wedding ring