CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - 40 years ago the final Apollo mission launched into outer space to become the sixth flight to land humans on the moon.
NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman stopped by the 22News studios on Saturday to talk about the accomplishments of Apollo 17, and the future of space travel.
It was 40 years ago - the last manned lunar landing to date. The three NASA astronauts on board Apollo 17 weren't the first men to walk on the moon, but they certainly broke records of their own.
"They brought back the most lunar samples, 250 pounds of moon rocks they brought back," explained Coleman. "They had the longest time in orbit around the moon. They did the second space walk ever in the history of our country."
The Apollo missions allowed astronauts to understand what the moon is like, and gave them knowledge to use in moving on to other places, like Mars. It's the kind of work that was continued over the years by the Space Shuttle program, which created the International Space Station.
Coleman said, "This Space Station teaches us how to take care of people, how to make sure they can come home healthy and it helps us understand a lot of the technologies we need."
The Space Shuttle program ended last year, and some ask if space exploration ended with it. But Coleman insists the work the Apollo 17 crew did 40 years ago is still a lesson for us today.
"We've got more to learn from the moon, and that is our place to learn how to live out in space, on other planets and how to explore the universe," said Coleman. "Because it's close."
Coleman told 22News she encourages young people today to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, because those strengths will bring us closer to exploring other planets like Mars.