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Apollo 17 Astronaut Ready
to Return to the Moon

By Ralph Derickson

Photo of Astronaut Harrison Schmidt
Astronaut Harrison Schmidt

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"I'd love to go back (to the moon) again, but I don't think I'll be invited."

-- Harrison Schmidt,
Apollo 17 astronaut

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Oct. 11, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt told an audience at the University of Kentucky today that the United States may well launch a new mission to the moon in another 30 years, and this time the goal could be to tap an abundant Helium 3 energy source on the moon.

Schmitt suggested that the energy source available on the moon could aid future exploration into deep space.

Schmitt is visiting UK today as the guest of the Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) headquartered at UK and is scheduled to give a free public lecture at 7 p.m. today in the Concert Hall of the Singletary Center for the Arts.
This is the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission to the moon. Schmitt said during a morning news conference that he would personally like to go back to the moon. "I'd love to go back again, but I don't think I'll be invited."

A native and former U.S. senator of New Mexico, Schmitt said future trips to the moon would be greatly enhanced by the improved technology that has occurred in the past 30 years. For one thing, he said, future rockets like the Saturn that carried the Apollo mission likely would be made of composite material and be much lighter.

Asked his opinion about persons who have bought rides to the space station in Russian space shuttles, Schmitt said, "It's their money and they can spend it any way they want to." He suggested the United States might want to consider the commercial feasibility of taking tourists into space. The cost of taking one person along is only about $500,000, he figured.

Speculating about the possibility that there is life somewhere other than on earth, Schmitt said there is a strong probability that there is life on other planets, but very little probability they had ever visited earth. "We would know if they had been here," he said.

At 11 a.m., Schmitt delivered a technical talk about the geologic evolution of the moon and Mars to an appreciative audience - including UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. - to about 150 UK faculty members and students in the auditorium of the William T. Young Library.

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