Scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt is photographed working beside a huge boulder at Station 6 (base of North Massif) during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. Credit: NASA


Analysis by Irene Klotz
Fri Dec 7, 2012 01:55 AM ET

Apollo astronaut and geologist Harrison “Jack” Schmitt doesn’t buy the prevailing theory that the moon formed from pieces of Earth that were shot into space after a giant impact.

Instead, Schmitt suspects Earth’s gravity captured a smaller body that had built itself up in a nearby orbit.

Additional evidence may be found inside a deep crater on the moon’s south pole, one of several areas Schmitt, now a professor at the University of Wisconsin, advocates exploring, not only for science, but to prepare for human missions to Mars.

As a follow-on program to the International Space Station, the moon fell out of favor as a destination for the U.S. human space program due to high costs. Instead, the Obama administration wants NASA to plan for a manned mission to an asteroid by 2025, an interim milestone toward an eventual human expedition to Mars.

Schmitt, a member of the last Apollo crew that blasted off 40 years ago on Dec. 7, 1972, believes that’s a mistake.

“I think an asteroid is a diversion,” Schmitt told Discovery News. “If the ultimate goal is to get to Mars, you have a satellite only three days away that has a great deal of science as well as resources.”

“The science of the moon has just been scratched,” Schmitt added. “We’ve hardly explored the moon.”

Read more: Apollo Veteran: Skip Asteroid, Go to the Moon : Discovery News.

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