PHOTO:NASA

An end to the dream? The Apollo 17 crew returned to Earth this day 44 years ago. Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. Schmitt, a safe splashdown at 14:25 p.m. EST on December. 19, 1972, 648 kilometers (350 nautical miles) southeast of American Samoa.

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The astronauts were flown by recovery helicopter to the USS Ticonderoga within the hour, closing the era of manned lunar exploration.