Q: Astronaut Ron Evans, of St. Francis, was the first Kansan to go into space. He did so as part of Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the Moon. As Command Module Pilot, his job was to orbit the Moon, while the other two crew members descended to the surface and drove around the lunar landscape. What was the name of the Command Module piloted by Evans?
View of the crescent Earth rising above the lunar horizon over the Ritz Crater. Image taken during the Apollo 17 mission on Revolution 66. (Flickr Photo Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
A: America (also known as CSM-114 / Command/Service Module 114)
Ronald Evans is part of an elite group within an elite group. Not only did he become an astronaut, he’s one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon. Evans was born on Nov. 10, 1933, in St. Francis, in northwest Kansas. He graduated from Highland Park High School in Topeka and, in 1956, received an electrical engineering degree from the University of Kansas. (Evans was also a member of the Navy’s ROTC program at KU and later flew combat missions in Vietnam.)
Astronaut Ronald E. Evans is photographed performing extravehicular activity during the Apollo 17 spacecraft's trans-Earth coast, on Sunday, Dec. 17, 1972. (Photo Courtesy of NASA)In 1966, he was selected as an astronaut by NASA. Evans made his first and only flight into space as the Command Module Pilot aboard Apollo 17 in December 1972 - the last manned-mission to the Moon. Evans orbited the Moon in the Command/Service Module named “America,” while the other two crew members (Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt) descended to the surface and drove around the lunar landscape. “America” is now on display at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Evans died in 1990 at the age of 56.
Fun Factoid: It’s been calculated that a person’s chances of becoming an astronaut are one in 12.6 million. So, in a state with 12.6 million residents, one of those people should be an astronaut. Kansas only has about 3 million residents and yet, the state has produced three astronauts.