The Last Man on the Moon and the Star of Bethlehem at SMC Planetarium

By Jorge Casuso

November 23, 2022 — If most people know Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, far fewer know that Gene Cernan was the last.

Cernan and Evans in Apollo 17

“Apollo 17: The Last Hurrah” — which will be presented next month at Santa Monica College’s John Drescher Planetarium — will look back at Cernan and his crew mate as they spent more than three days (and nights) on the moon 50 years ago.

(From left) Cernan and Evans in Apollo 17 (Courtesy NASA)

December’s free, live virtual shows will also look at the Winter Solstice and offer a scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem. The shows take place on Friday nights at 8 pm, following The Night Sky Show at 7.

On Friday, December 2 and 9, senior lecturer Jim Mahon will look back at the December 1972 Apollo 17 lunar landing made by Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt.

The two astronauts brought LM Challenger down “for three days of scientific and philosophical investigation” in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, planetarium officials said.

“Keenly aware they were the last people who would walk on the Moon for some time, and watched over by their crew mate Ron Evans overhead in Command Module America, Cernan and Schmitt tried their best to remind the world how remarkable Apollo was.”

Nearly three-and-a-half year’s earlier, Armstrong had stepped on the moon for the fisrt time and uttered the famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

As the last man o step off the moon, Cernan would say, “We leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”

On Friday, December 16, Mahon will present “A Winter’s Solstice,” which “examines the history of various ancient observances of the Winter Solstice and how they have evolved and reported with Judeo-Christian holidays.”

The show also “takes a look at a remarkable planetary conjunction in 2 BC, a leading candidate for a scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem.”

Planetarium lecturers are currently using the Zoom platform to present shows while the actual on-campus planetarium remains closed due to the COVID-19 emergency.

To attend the shows, the Zoom software must be installed on the viewer’s computer. A free download is available at

“The shows include the chance to chat with the planetarium lecturers and ask questions related to astronomy and space exploration,” planetarium officials said.

More information is available online at or by calling 310-434-3005. Shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

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