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Former astronaut enjoys time spent in OTC

Tom Hintgen/FOCUS Former astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who owns a cabin at West Battle Lake, took time for an interview while visiting people in Fergus Falls recently.

Former astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who walked on the moon in 1972, periodically comes from New Mexico to spend time at his cabin at West Battle Lake.

He says each visit to Otter Tail County is special, and summer 2013 is no exception.

Schmitt’s late father grew up in southern Minnesota and purchased property at West Battle Lake. The future astronaut grew up in New Mexico and the family has maintained the lake cabin over the years.

“For many years I’ve appreciated the beauty of Otter Tail County, with its abundance of lakes,” said Schmitt.

The Apollo 17 mission, which took place close to 41 years ago, was the final mission of the United States lunar landing program. It was the sixth landing of humans on the moon.

The mission’s three-member crew included Schmitt, Eugene Cernan and Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans. While Evans orbited the moon in the command module, Schmitt and Cernan descended to the moon in the lunar module. Schmitt, a geologist, collected rock samples while on the lunar surface.

Today, Schmitt performs aerospace and earth science consulting. He also presents scientific papers to professional societies such as the Geological Society of America. He speaks to many groups in and around Albuquerque, N.M.

Schmitt still sees former astronaut Cernan, 79, of Houston, periodically. Their fellow crew member, Evans, died in 1990.

Schmitt is now 78 and in prior years has spoken to students and service groups in Battle Lake and other area communities. He formerly served as a United States senator from New Mexico. His wife, Teresa, is a professional writer who also volunteers with pre-school administrators.

Schmitt received a bachelor of science degree in geology from the California Institute of Technology in 1957, and later received a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University. In 1970 he became the first of the scientist-astronauts to be assigned to space flight.

When he returns to the West Battle Lake area in the summers, Schmitt performs roof work and other tasks at the family lake cabin. He’s a big proponent of lake preservation, and he says he appreciates conservation efforts at nearby Glendalough State Park.

Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent