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Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt
Harrison H. Schmitt.jpg
NASA Astronaut
Status Retired
Born July 3, 1935 (1935-07-03) (age 74)
Santa Rita, New Mexico
Other occupation Geologist
Time in space 12d 13h 52 m
Selection Scientist group
Missions Apollo 17
Mission insignia Apollo-17-LOGO.jpg
Harrison Schmitt

In office
January 3, 1977 ‚Äď January 3, 1983
Preceded by Joseph Montoya
Succeeded by Jeff Bingaman

Born July 3, 1935 (1935-07-03) (age 74)
Santa Rita, New Mexico
Political party Republican

Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt (born July 3, 1935) is an American geologist, a former NASA astronaut, University Professor and a U.S. Senator for one term.

He is the twelfth and last of the Apollo astronauts to arrive and set foot on the Moon (crewmate Eugene Cernan exited the Apollo Lunar Module first). However, as Schmitt re-entered the module first, Cernan became the last astronaut to walk on and depart the moon. Schmitt is also the only person to have walked on the Moon who was never a member of the United States Armed Forces (he is not the first civilian; Neil Armstrong left military service prior to his landing in 1969).


Early life and education

Born in Santa Rita, New Mexico, Schmitt grew up in nearby Silver City.[1] He received a B.S. degree in science from the California Institute of Technology in 1957 and then spent a year for graduate studying geology at the University of Oslo in Norway.[1][2] He received a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University in 1964, based on his geological field studies in Norway.[1]

NASA career

Before joining NASA as a member of the first group of scientist-astronauts in June 1965, he worked at the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Center at Flagstaff, Arizona, developing geological field techniques that would be used by the Apollo crews. Following his selection, Schmitt spent his first year at Air Force UPT learning to become a jet pilot. Upon his return to the astronaut corps in Houston, he played a key role in training Apollo crews to be geologic observers when they were in lunar orbit and competent geologic field workers when they were on the lunar surface. After each of the landing missions, he participated in the examination and evaluation of the returned lunar samples and helped the crews with the scientific aspects of their mission reports.

Schmitt posed with the American flag and Earth in the background during Apollo 17's first EVA. Eugene Cernan is visible reflected in Schmitt's helmet visor.
Harrison Schmitt collects lunar specimens during the Apollo 17 mission

Schmitt spent considerable time becoming proficient in the CSM and LM systems. In March 1970 he became the first of the scientist-astronauts to receive an assignment to either a backup or primary crew. He joined Richard F. Gordon, Jr. (Commander) and Vance Brand (Command Module Pilot) on the backup crew for Apollo 15 and was clearly in line to fly as Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 18. After the cancellation of the Apollo 18 moon mission in September 1970, it was widely expected that he would be assigned to fly on Apollo 17, the last lunar mission. That assignment was announced in August 1971. (Schmitt effectively replaced Joe Engle who had been in training with commander Gene Cernan as his Lunar Module Pilot.)

During Apollo 17's flight to the Moon in December 1972, Schmitt is believed to have taken the photograph of the Earth known as The Blue Marble, one of the most widely distributed photographic images in existence. (NASA officially credits the image to the entire Apollo 17 crew; Schmitt claims that he personally took the image.)

While on the Moon's surface, Schmitt‚ÄĒthe only geologist in the astronaut corps‚ÄĒcollected the rock sample designated Troctolite 76535, which has been called "without doubt the most interesting sample returned from the Moon" [3]. Among other distinctions, it is the central piece of evidence suggesting that the Moon once possessed an active magnetic field[4].

As he returned to the Lunar Module before his crewmate Gene Cernan, Schmitt is the next-to-last person to have set foot on the moon's surface.

After the completion of Apollo 17, Schmitt played an active role in documenting the Apollo geologic results and also took on the task of organizing NASA's Energy Program Office.

Post-NASA career

Schmitt in 2009

In August 1975, Schmitt resigned from NASA to seek election as a Republican to the United States Senate representing New Mexico. Schmitt faced two-term Democratic incumbent, Joseph Montoya, whom he defeated 57% to 42%. He served one term and, notably, was the ranking Republican member of the Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee. He sought a second term in 1982, but due to a deep recession and concerns that he wasn't paying attention to local matters, he was defeated in a re-election bid by the state Attorney General Jeff Bingaman by a 54% to 46% margin. Bingaman's campaign slogan asked, "What on Earth has he done for you lately?" [5]. Following his Senate term, Schmitt has been a consultant in business, geology, space, and public policy.

Schmitt is an adjunct professor of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin‚ÄďMadison[6], and has long been a proponent of lunar resource utilization[7][8]. In 1997 he proposed the Interlune InterMars Initiative, listing among its goals the advancement of private sector acquisition and use of lunar resources, particularly lunar helium-3 as a fuel for notional nuclear fusion reactors.[9]

Schmitt was chair of the NASA Advisory Council, whose mandate is to provide technical advice to the NASA Administrator, from November 2005 until his abrupt resignation in October 16, 2008.[10] . In November 2008, he quit the Planetary Society over policy advocacy differences, citing the organization's statements on "focusing on Mars as the driving goal of human spaceflight" (Schmitt said that going back to the Moon would speed progress toward a manned Mars mission), on "accelerating research into global climate change through more comprehensive Earth observations" (Schmitt voiced objections to the notion of a present "scientific consensus" on climate change as any policy guide), and on international cooperation (which he felt would retard rather than accelerate progress), among other points of divergence.[11] He has said that "[t]he CO2 scare is a red herring",[12] that the "global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision-making," and that scientists who might otherwise challenge prevailing views on climate change dare not do so for fear of losing funding.[13]

He lives in Silver City, New Mexico, and spends some of his summer at his northern Minnesota lake cabin.

Schmitt in popular culture

Awards and honors

  • He was made an honorary fellow of the Geological Society of America for his efforts in geoscience in 1984.[14]
  • One of the elementary schools in Schmitt's hometown of Silver City, New Mexico was named in his honor in the mid-1970s. An image of the astronaut riding a rocket through space is displayed on the front of Harrison Schmitt Elementary School.


Schmitt is one of the astronauts featured in the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. He also contributed to the book "NASA's Scientist-Astronauts" by David Shayler and Colin Burgess.


  1. ^ a b c "50 Years in Space - Harrison Schmitt". California Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on June 16, 2009. Retrieved June 16, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Learned to walk on the moon in Oslo". Universitas. May 27, 2009. Archived from the original on June 15, 2009. Retrieved June 15, 2009. 
  3. ^ Lunar Sample Compendium at
  4. ^ "Rock Suggests Early Moon’s Fiery Core Churned a Magnetic Field", The New York Times, January 19, 2009
  5. ^ "40th Anniversary of Apollo 11: Moonstruck", Time Magazine, July 27, 2009
  6. ^ Schmitt, Harrison J
  7. ^ ["The moon: an abundant source of clean and safe fusion fuel for the 21st century"], in NASA, Lewis Research Center, Lunar Helium-3 and Fusion Power p 35-64 (SEE N89-14842 06-75)
  8. ^ Return to the Moon: exploration, enterprise, and energy in the human settlement of space, Springer, 2006 ISBN 0387242856
  9. ^ "Interlune-Intermars Business Initiative: Returning to Deep Space", Journal of Aerospace Engineering, Vol. 10, No. 2, April 1997, pp. 60-67, (doi 10.1061/(ASCE)0893-1321(1997)10:2(60)) (full text)
  10. ^ "Schmitt Completes NASA Advisory Council Service; Ford Named Chairman", NASA Press Release
  11. ^ "Former NASA Advisory Council Chair Jack Schmitt Quits Planetary Society Over New Roadmap",, Nov 17, 2008.
  12. ^ "FBN fails to disclose climate-change skeptic's position in industry-funded organization", Media Matters for America, Jun 17, 2009.
  13. ^ "Ex-Astronaut: Global Warming Is Bunk", Fox News, Feb 16, 2009
  14. ^ Geological Society of America: Award & Medal Recipients

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
Joseph Montoya
United States Senator (Class 1) from New Mexico
Served alongside: Pete Domenici
Succeeded by
Jeff Bingaman


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