Space: Apollo 17: Farewell Mission to the Moon

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But Apollo's contributions go far beyond nationalistic considerations and even the highly touted technological spin-offs from space (like fuel cells and miniature computers). The moon flights have made man aware of the finiteness of his planet and the bonds between the people who dwell on it. "To see the earth as it truly is," wrote Poet Archibald MacLeish after Apollo 8's Christmas Eve orbit of the moon in 1968, "is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold."

Anti-Science. As Science Fiction Writer Ray Bradbury recalls, H.G. Wells may well have anticipated the antiscience movement in his screenplay for the classic 1936 movie Things To Come. In the film a raging mob—including the intellectuals of the day—besiege the first spaceship to be launched from earth. "We don't want mankind to go out to the moon and the planets!" shouts the mob's leader. "We shall hate you more if you succeed than if you fail. Is there never to be calm and happiness for man?" Despite the protests, the moonship is shot skyward from a space cannon and an onlooker philosophizes: "For man, no rest and no ending. He must go on—conquest beyond conquest." Many Americans today have begun to wonder just how long and how far Western man can continue these conquests: whether the relentless, Faustian striving to dominate nature should not give way to the Eastern ideal of living in harmony with nature.

It is a genuine and perhaps momentous issue. But chances are that the modern world's answer will remain Wells's answer: that man must first conquer "this little planet, its winds and ways, and all the laws of mind and matter that restrain him. Then the planets about him, and at last out across immensity to the stars. And when he has conquered all the deeps of space and all the mysteries of time, still he will be beginning."

In the following pages, TIME takes a close-up look at Apollo's final journey, reviews in words and color photos the entire U.S. manned space program and provides the scenario for a space odyssey that may well excite mankind in the 1980s as did the awesome accomplishments of the Apollo program that is ending with this week's mission.

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