In late 1972, Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt was returning from the last ever rover trip, of the last Apollo mission to the moon. It had gone successfully, and although he didn’t know it yet, Schmitt had recently taken one of the most important photographs of all time (the famous blue marble image of Earth). As they walked towards the EVA, Schmitt realized there would be no more use for his geology hammer. About to step in to the spacecraft, he begged Mission Control “Let me throw the hammer? Please?”
With an all clear, no wind resistance, and at 1/6th’s Earth’s gravity, the image above is of Schmitt watching his hammer fly 44 metres off into a patch of unexplored landscape.
The animated GIF of the hammer in flight and creating a plume of dust (below) was made by Roberto Beltramini. The tiny hole left behind is jokingly known as ‘Hammer Crater’.
Without an atmosphere, the blackness of space depicted in these pictures was so absolute that NASA had to develop a special ink, if they later wanted to realistically capture them in print.
Within this film from the rover camera, the audio captures the emotions of – and the surprising amount of latitude given to – those Apollo astronauts on that last mission.
The records of this simple, poignant action reminds me of course of the iconic opening scene from 2001, the work of performance artist Roman Signer, and (more recently) probably the best ever Mythbusters episode – Moon Hoax.
In it, the many so-called anomalies offered up by armchair conspiracy theorists (the fluttering flags, the non parallel shadows, possibly slowed down film, and the like) are neatly put away, leaving us just with the wonder of moments like those above – very real men walking around so improbably in 1972.