On December 19, 1972, a command module came careening back into Earth’s atmosphere, deployed its parachutes and landed in the Pacific Ocean at 2:25 p.m. The USS Ticonderoga, an Essex class aircraft carrier that has since been decommissioned and scrapped, was located only four miles away and they picked up the three astronauts, safely bringing them aboard. They had completed the final mission of the Apollo program: Apollo 17.

Twelve days prior, Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt climbed aboard the Saturn V expendable rocket developed and built by NASA. It was the Commander’s third flight into space and Evans and Schmitt’s first, and they flew to the moon to spend more time on its surface than any astronaut had previously done. It was also the last time astronauts left low Earth orbit, and of course the last time a human being set foot on the moon.

Cernan and Schmitt took the Lunar Module down to the moon’s surface while Evans stayed in orbit, holding down the fort up above. The two conducted several excursions/moonwalks, encountering various problems along the way. One such problem: the rover’s fender broke off, and how did they fix it? Duct tape. Though the fix wasn’t perfect, they eventually devised a better method of taping it back on. This is just one such instance of the ingenuity and problem-solving skills the astronauts had to utilize to defeat the problems they encountered in the unknown perils of space.

Eventually they left the surface, met back with the orbiting Command Module and headed back home to Earth. On December 19th, they successfully and safely landed in the Pacific.