The Majority Of Earthlings To Last Orbit The Moon Weren’t Even Human
Almost 50 years after we last orbited the moon, NASA is preparing for a new generation of astronauts to visit the lunar surface.
But few people know that of the six most recent Earthlings to orbit the moon, five were not human at all.
In December 1972, two astronauts – Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt – travelled to the lunar service as part of Apollo 17 – NASA’s last lunar mission.
However, staying aboard the Apollo 17 command module orbiting the moon was Ronald Evans – the last human to conduct a lunar orbit – and 5 mice named Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, and Phooey.
The mice weren’t just there to keep Evans company – they were participating in a biological experiment into the impact of cosmic radiation. Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum and Phooey were all implanted with radiation monitors to measure the effects of cosmic rays during their time orbiting in the moon.
Sadly, one of the mice did not survive the journey back to Earth, and the remaining four were killed and dissected shortly after their mission. Evans himself passed away of a heart attack in 1990, leaving no surviving members from the last crew to orbit the moon.
But despite this, Evans, Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum and Phooey continue to hold a place in space history almost half a century later.
As well as being the last Earthlings to orbit the moon, the mice and Evans continue to hold the record for the longest time spent in lunar orbit (147 hours 43 minutes), as well as the most lunar orbits traveled, having done 75 rounds of the moon in the command module ‘America’, which remains on display at the NASA Space Center in Houston to this day.
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