Encrusted with moon dust and outlined with personal notes and observations, an Apollo 17 Lunar Roving Vehicle mapbook is being donated to Purdue Libraries.
Gene Cernan, a Purdue alumnus and the last man on the moon, announced his donation Thursday evening in Mackey Arena at an invitation-only reception.
Purdue Libraries’ Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center will be receiving the donation. The collection of documents are mounted in a custom-made book and are accompanied by corresponding photos. Cernan and Apollo 17 crewmate Harrison Schmitt used the maps on the lunar surface. Clutched in Cernan’s gloved hand while driving the Lunar Roving Vehicle, the laminated documents guided the pair to various investigation sites over their 22 hours of exploration.
The maps included in Cernan’s donation, however, do not make up the entire collection used by the Apollo 17 crew. After bumping into the Lunar Roving Vehicle with a hammer during extra-vehicular activity on the lunar surface, Cernan accidentally knocked off a large portion of the vehicle’s fender. The fender was critical in keeping moon dust from spraying onto the crew’s gear and space suits, which caused dangerous absorption of the lunar sun and heat.
After consultation from mission control in Houston, the crew patched together a makeshift fender out of four laminated maps and duct tape and affixed it to the vehicle. The vehicle, along with the conjoined maps, were subsequently abandoned on the lunar surface. The remaining collection of maps returned with the crew to Earth.
Cernan’s announcement kicked off the Purdue astronaut reunion being held on campus Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He is joined by eight fellow Boilermaker astronauts. The reunion consists of a small sample of Purdue’s 23 alumni who have been in space.
On Friday, the group will be visiting with various faculty members and students on campus.
On Saturday, the astronauts will be introduced at halftime during the spring football scrimmage. The reunion will culminate with a forum titled “A Conversation with Our Astronauts” at 7 p.m. in Elliott Hall of Music. The forum will be moderated by President Mitch Daniels and is open to the public, but attendees will need tickets.
Kyle Pendergast, president of Purdue Student Government, praised the reunion as a great opportunity for students.
“The astronaut reunion is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to meet Purdue alumni that have exemplified the Boilermaker ideal,” he said. “Students should attend and learn from these incredible individuals who have gone far beyond the limits of mankind.”
Robert Jezior, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, will be attending the forum Saturday evening.
“I am hoping to work for some aerospace firm that works on space flight,” Jezior said. “The idea of astronauts coming back is pretty exciting.”
Cernan will be joined by six of the visiting astronauts at the public forum on Saturday evening. Admission is free, but attendees need to pick up tickets at the box offices in Elliott Hall of Music or Stewart Center, or by calling 765-494-3933.