Apollo 17 astronaut visits Barrow

Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator from New Mexico Dr. Harrison Schmitt got a warm reception in Barrow Tuesday night.

Schmitt visited with local elders and civic leaders and then made a public presentation to an overflow audience of about 100 residents in the North Slope Borough Assembly Room.

The visit took place while Barrow was enjoying temperatures near zero degrees, clear skies, with a clear view of the nearly-full moon, near the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

Schmitt, and fellow Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan, were the last men to set foot on the moon over 30 years ago. They landed on the moon on December 11, 1972 and took off on December 14, 1972.

Barrow elder Warren Matumeak and fellow Barrow elder Kenneth Toovak told Schmitt that the Inupiat Eskimo people have stories about how some of their ancestors traveled to the moon.

''Did you see our footprints up there?'' Matumeak asked Schmitt?

''No, we didn't see any footprints,'' Schmitt responded, ''but we only saw a very small portion of the lunar surface.''

Schmitt described that last manned mission to the moon in detail during his public presentation, including film footage of him running on the moon.

''I used kind of a cross-country skiing motion,'' he said.

Barrow High School science teacher Tim Buckley asked him what local students should emphasize in their studies if they would like to follow in his footsteps.

''There are lots of things,'' Schmitt answered, ''but one very important subject is math. Take all the math you can, until mathematics becomes like a language to you.''

Schmitt's visit to Barrow was sponsored by the Carol Treadwell Fund of the Millennium Society, Commonwealth North, University of Alaska Anchorage and AT&T Alascom. Arrangements in Barrow were coordinated by the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium.

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