8:36 P.M. EST, December 12, 1972: Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt braked to a stop alongside Nansen Crater, keenly aware that they were far, far from home. They had flown nearly a quarter-million miles to the man in the moon’s left eye, landed at its edge, and then driven five miles into this desolate, boulder-strewn landscape. As they gathered samples, they strode at the outermost edge of mankind’s travels. This place, this moment, marked the extreme of exploration for a species born to wander.
In his new book “Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings,” writer Earl Swift presents a rediscovery of the final Apollo moon landings, and reveals why these extraordinary yet overshadowed missions—distinguished by the use of the revolutionary lunar roving vehicle—deserve to be celebrated as the pinnacle of human adventure and exploration.
Earl Swift is the author of the New York Times bestseller Chesapeake Requiem. His other books include Auto Biography, The Big Roads, and Where They Lay. A former reporter for the Virginian-Pilot and a contributor to Outside and other publications, he is fellow of Virginia Humanities at the University of Virginia. He lives in the Blue Ridge mountains west of Charlottesville.