Former astronaut Harrison (Jack) Schmitt, a resident of New Mexico who comes to a family cabin at West Battle Lake during the summer months, landed on the moon in 1972. This summer he is taking part in the 50th anniversary remembrances of the first U.S. landing on the moon in July 1969.
Schmitt appeared Sunday, July 14, on "CBS Sunday Morning." Reporter Tracy Smith interviewed Schmitt, a geologist who collected rock samples while on the lunar surface in 1972.
She also interviewed some of the seamstresses who fashioned protective wear that would mean life or death for Schmitt and the other 11 astronauts who walked on the moon during six lunar missions from 1969 to 1972.
"This year, in 2019, it is an honor for me to take part in the 50th anniversary events related to the first U.S. lunar landing in 1969," Schmitt told CBS.
On July 20, 1969, U.S. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, as part of Apollo 11, set foot on the moon and famously said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
The speed needed for Apollo 11 to break free of the earth's gravitational field was close to 7 miles per second.
Schmitt's Apollo 17 mission, the sixth and last U.S. successful trip to the moon, began on Dec. 7, 1972.
Six months later, Schmitt walked along the shores of West Battle Lake during summer evening hours and looked at the moon where he had walked, more than 238,000 miles away.
In 1970, the Apollo 13 crew was unable to make a lunar landing due to an oxygen tank explosion. It was a monumental effort returning the crew safely to earth.
Schmitt was 37 when he landed on the moon in December 1972. Today he is 84 and still in good health.
The former astronaut, over the years, spoke to students in Battle Lake and to other groups throughout Otter Tail County.
More about the life of Harrison Schmitt
Jack Schmitt's 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.
The Apollo 17 three-member crew, in 1972, 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's cabin at West Battle Lake is near a cabin once owned by Jim Gray, the late newsroom editor of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.
Gray, who became a good friend of Schmitt, attended the December 1972 moon launch in Florida along with the late Chuck Underwood, publisher of the Daily Journal.
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.
He served as a member of the U.S. Senate, representing New Mexico from 1977 to 1983. Schmitt then started work as a consultant in business, geology, space and public policy.