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Harrison Schmitt

Apollo 17 Astronaut and Former US Senator

Harrison Hagan Schmitt was born in New Mexico and grew up in the American West. He earned a Bachelors of Science from Caltech and a PhD in geology from Harvard, based on work in Norway as a Fulbright Scholar and a National Science Foundation Post-Doctorate Fellow. Schmitt is privileged to have received numerous honorary degrees from United States and Canadian universities.

Schmitt joined the United States Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Branch in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1964, leading the development of early lunar field geological methods under contract to NASA. Selected by NASA as a Scientist-Astronaut in 1965, he earned Air Force T-38 jet pilot wings in 1966 and Navy H-13 helicopter wings in 1967.

After supporting the operational preparations and geological training for Apollo missions to the Moon, including being the Backup Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 15, Schmitt flew in space as Apollo 17’s Lunar Module Pilot.  He landed in the Moon’s Valley of Taurus-Littrow on December 11, 1972. He is the only scientist and last of 12 men to step on the Moon, Schmitt collected, documented and returned 240 pounds of lunar samples. The extensive field context he provided for those lunar samples is unique among the Apollo missions. He continues to integrate the results of 50 years of ongoing lunar research by his colleagues with his field observations.

Elected to the United States Senate from New Mexico in 1976, Schmitt worked on a wide variety of national legislation and New Mexico constituent services. He served on the Commerce, Appropriations, Banking, Small Business, and Intelligence Committees and chaired the Commerce Subcommittee on Space and Technology and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Senator Schmitt later served on President Reagan’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Army Science Board, and President H. W. Bush’s Ethics Commission. From 2005 to 2008, he chaired the NASA Advisory Council. Schmitt was a Director of Orbital Sciences Corporation and Orbital ATK for 35 years, serving until 2018 when Northrop Grumman acquired the company. He also has been a director of several corporations in the banking, technology, mining, and medical fields.

As an Adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Schmitt taught  “Resources from Space” and remains an Associate Fellow in the university’s Department of Engineering, working with faculty members on the commercialization of fusion power. Schmitt is currently a member of the User Advisory Group of the National Space Council and of the Science Advisory Board to the Blue Moon project of Blue Origin. He has authored “Return to the Moon; Exploration, Enterprise and Energy in the Human Exploration of Space” and has published numerous scientific and public policy papers. Most recently, Schmitt and his co-authors published “Revisiting the field geology of Taurus-Littrow” in Icarus (2017). Schmitt’s account of the Apollo 17 Mission to the Moon is currently being published online as “Apollo 17: Diary of the 12th Man.”


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