Harrison Schmitt, U.S. Senator

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Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt

Birthplace: Santa Rita, Grant, New Mexico, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Harrison Ashley Schmitt and Ethal Schmitt
Brother of <private> Decker (Schmitt); <private> Schmitt; Paula Schmitt and <private> Schmitt

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Harrison Schmitt, U.S. Senator



Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt (born July 3, 1935) is an American geologist, a retired NASA astronaut, university professor, and a former U.S. senator from New Mexico.

He was the twelfth and last of the Apollo astronauts to arrive and set foot on the Moon, as Apollo 17 crewmate Eugene Cernan exited the Apollo Lunar Module first. However, as Schmitt re-entered the module first, Cernan became the last astronaut to walk on and depart the moon. Schmitt is also the only geologist as well as the only person to have walked on the Moon who was never a member of the United States Armed Forces, although he is not the first civilian, since Neil Armstrong left military service prior to his landing in 1969.

Early life and education

Born in Santa Rita, New Mexico, Schmitt grew up in nearby Silver City. He received a B.S. degree in geology from the California Institute of Technology in 1957 and then spent a year for graduate studying geology at the University of Oslo in Norway. He received a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University in 1964, based on his geological field studies in Norway.

NASA career

Before joining NASA as a member of the first group of scientist-astronauts in June 1965, he worked at the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Center at Flagstaff, Arizona, developing geological field techniques that would be used by the Apollo crews. Following his selection, Schmitt spent his first year at Air Force UPT learning to become a jet pilot. Upon his return to the astronaut corps in Houston, he played a key role in training Apollo crews to be geologic observers when they were in lunar orbit and competent geologic field workers when they were on the lunar surface. After each of the landing missions, he participated in the examination and evaluation of the returned lunar samples and helped the crews with the scientific aspects of their mission reports.

Schmitt spent considerable time becoming proficient in the CSM and LM systems. In March 1970 he became the first of the scientist-astronauts to be assigned to space flight, joining Richard F. Gordon, Jr. (Commander) and Vance Brand (Command Module Pilot) on the Apollo 15 backup crew. The flight rotation put these three in line to fly as prime crew on the third following mission, Apollo 18. Apollo flights 18 and 19 were cancelled in September 1970, but Schmitt was assigned in August 1971 to fly on the last lunar mission, Apollo 17, replacing Joe Engle as Lunar Module Pilot. He landed on the Moon with commander Gene Cernan in December 1972.

Schmitt claims to have personally taken the photograph of the Earth known as The Blue Marble, one of the most widely distributed photographic images in existence. (NASA officially credits the image to the entire Apollo 17 crew.)

While on the Moon's surface, Schmitt — the only geologist in the astronaut corps — collected the rock sample designated Troctolite 76535, which has been called "without doubt the most interesting sample returned from the Moon". Among other distinctions, it is the central piece of evidence suggesting that the Moon once possessed an active magnetic field.

As he returned to the Lunar Module before Cernan, Schmitt is the next-to-last person to have walked on the Moon's surface.

After the completion of Apollo 17, Schmitt played an active role in documenting the Apollo geologic results and also took on the task of organizing NASA's Energy Program Office.

Post-NASA career

In August 1975, Schmitt resigned from NASA to seek election as a Republican to the United States Senate representing New Mexico. Schmitt faced two-term Democratic incumbent, Joseph Montoya, whom he defeated 57% to 42%. He served one term and, notably, was the ranking Republican member of the Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee. He sought a second term in 1982, but due to a deep recession and concerns that he wasn't paying attention to local matters, he was defeated in a re-election bid by the state Attorney General Jeff Bingaman by a 54% to 46% margin. Bingaman's campaign slogan asked, "What on Earth has he done for you lately?". Following his Senate term, Schmitt has been a consultant in business, geology, space, and public policy.

During his term in the Senate, Schmitt sat at the chamber's Candy desk.

Schmitt is an adjunct professor of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and has long been a proponent of lunar resource utilization. In 1997 he proposed the Interlune InterMars Initiative, listing among its goals the advancement of private sector acquisition and use of lunar resources, particularly lunar helium-3 as a fuel for notional nuclear fusion reactors.

The idea of generating significant power from helium 3 obtained from the moon is regarded as wildly impractical.

Schmitt was chair of the NASA Advisory Council, whose mandate is to provide technical advice to the NASA Administrator, from November 2005 until his abrupt resignation on October 16, 2008. In November 2008, he quit the Planetary Society over policy advocacy differences, citing the organization's statements on "focusing on Mars as the driving goal of human spaceflight" (Schmitt said that going back to the Moon would speed progress toward a manned Mars mission), on "accelerating research into global climate change through more comprehensive Earth observations" (Schmitt voiced objections to the notion of a present "scientific consensus" on climate change as any policy guide), and on international cooperation (which he felt would retard rather than accelerate progress), among other points of divergence.

Regarding the international scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, Schmitt has said that "[t]he CO2 scare is a red herring", that the "global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision-making," and that scientists who might otherwise challenge prevailing views on climate change dare not do so for fear of losing funding.

Likewise, in a 2009 interview with conservative talk-radio host Alex Jones, Schmitt asserted a link between Soviet Communism and the American environmental movement: "I think the whole trend really began with the fall of the Soviet Union. Because the great champion of the opponents of liberty, namely communism, had to find some other place to go and they basically went into the environmental movement."

In January, 2011, he was appointed as Secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department in the cabinet of Governor Susana Martinez.

Harrison Schmitt wrote a book entitled "Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space" in 2006.

He lives in Silver City, New Mexico, and spends some of his summer at his northern Minnesota lake cabin.

In popular culture

Schmitt was portrayed by Tom Amandes in the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.
Schmitt was interviewed on Infowars, the Alex Jones radio show, on July 31, 2009, regarding his opposition to the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming. He admitted being a fan of the show, saying he "keeps up on things out here".
He appeared in an episode of the television show Bill Nye the Science Guy.
He was interviewed in the 2009 BBC television show James May on the Moon.
He was interviewed by Maltese television talk show Xarabank, the episode airing December 11, 2009, 2045 CET.

Awards and honors

NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1973)
He was made an honorary fellow of the Geological Society of America for his efforts in geoscience in 1984.
One of the elementary schools in Schmitt's hometown of Silver City, New Mexico was named in his honor in the mid-1970s. An image of the astronaut riding a rocket through space is displayed on the front of Harrison Schmitt Elementary School.


Schmitt is one of the astronauts featured in the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. He also contributed to the book NASA's Scientist-Astronauts by David Shayler and Colin Burgess.

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Harrison Schmitt, U.S. Senator's Timeline

July 3, 1935
Santa Rita, Grant, New Mexico, United States