Ronald Evans (astronaut)

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Ronald E. Evans Jr.
Ronald Evans.jpg
Ronald Ellwin Evans Jr.

(1933-11-10)November 10, 1933
DiedApril 7, 1990(1990-04-07) (aged 56)
Other namesRon Evans
Alma materUniversity of Kansas, B.S. 1956
NPS, M.S. 1964
OccupationNaval aviator, engineer
AwardsNASA Distinguished Service Medal.jpg Air Medal front.jpg
Space career
NASA Astronaut
RankUS-O6 insignia.svg Captain, USN
Time in space
12d 13h 52m
Selection1966 NASA Group 5
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
1 hour 5 minutes
MissionsApollo 17
Mission insignia
Apollo 17-insignia.png
RetirementMarch 15, 1977

Capt. Ronald Ellwin Evans Jr., USN (November 10, 1933 – April 7, 1990) was an American naval officer and aviator, electrical engineer, aeronautical engineer, and NASA astronaut. As command module pilot on Apollo 17 he was one of the 24 astronauts to have flown to the Moon, and one of 12 people to have flown to the Moon without landing on it.

Before becoming an astronaut, Evans graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas and joined the U.S. Navy. After receiving his naval aviator wings, Evans served as a fighter pilot and flew combat during the Vietnam War. In 1964 he received a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Achieving the rank of captain, he retired from the Navy in 1976.

Evans was selected as an astronaut by NASA as part of Astronaut Group 5 in 1966 and made his only flight into space as Command Module Pilot aboard Apollo 17 in December 1972, the last crewed mission to the Moon, with Commander Eugene Cernan and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt. During the flight, Evans and five mice orbited the Moon a record 75 times[1] as his two crewmates descended to the surface. He is the last person to orbit the Moon alone and, at 148 hours, holds the record for the most time spent in lunar orbit. In 1975 Evans served as backup Command Module Pilot for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project mission.

During Apollo 17's return flight to Earth, Evans performed an extravehicular activity to retrieve film cassettes from the exterior of the spacecraft, the command and service module. It was the third "deep space" EVA, and is the spacewalk performed at the greatest distance from any planetary body. As of 2022, it remains one of only three deep space EVAs, all made during the Apollo program's J-missions.[2] It was also the final spacewalk of the Apollo program.


Early life and education[edit]

Evans was born on November 10, 1933, in St. Francis, Kansas, to parents Clarence Ellwin Evans (1911–1985) and Marie A. Evans (née Priebe; 1913–1992). He had two siblings, Larry Joe Evans (1935–1951) and Jay Evans. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America where he achieved its second highest rank, Life Scout. He graduated from Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kansas, in 1951, received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas in 1956, and a Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1964. He was a member of Tau Beta Pi, Society of Sigma Xi, and Sigma Nu.[3]

Military service[edit]

In June 1957 he completed flight training after receiving his commission as an Ensign through the Navy ROTC Program at the University of Kansas. Upon receiving his aviator wings in 1962, he was a fighter pilot with Fighter Squadron 142 (VF-142), serving on two aircraft carrier cruises in the Pacific Ocean, then a combat flight instructor for the F-8 aircraft with Fighter Squadron 124 (VF-124).[4]

From 1964 to 1966 Evans was on sea duty in the Pacific, assigned to Fighter Squadron 51 (VF-51), flying F-8 Crusader from the carrier USS Ticonderoga. During this assignment, he completed a seven-month tour of duty flying combat missions in Vietnam War. He was with VF-51 when he was selected as an astronaut in April 1966.[3]

Evans logged 5,100 hours of flight time, including 4,600 hours in jet aircraft.[3]

Evans during his trans-Earth EVA on Apollo 17

NASA career[edit]

Evans was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966.[5] He served as a member of the astronaut support crews for the Apollo 7 and Apollo 11 flights, and as backup Command Module Pilot for Apollo 14.[3][6]

Evans' only space flight was as Command Module Pilot of Apollo 17, the last scheduled U.S. crewed mission to the Moon. He was accompanied by Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt. While Cernan and Schmitt landed and worked on the Moon in the Taurus–Littrow valley, Evans remained in lunar orbit on board the Command Module America, completing assigned work tasks which required visual geological observations, hand-held photography of specific targets, and the control of cameras and other highly sophisticated scientific equipment carried in the service module's SIM bay.[3]

"Hot diggety dog!"

Evans, upon taking his first steps in space.[7]

The Blue Marble, an iconic photograph of Earth, is credited to the three crewmen of Apollo 17.

On the way back to Earth, Evans completed a one-hour, six-minute extravehicular activity, successfully retrieving three camera cassettes and completing a personal inspection of the equipment bay area. He logged 301 hours and 51 minutes in space, 1 hour and 6 minutes of which were spent in extravehicular activity.[6] He holds the record of most time spent in lunar orbit: six days and four hours (148 hours).[6][3]

Evans was later backup Command Module Pilot for the 1975 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission.[6]

Evans retired from the U.S. Navy as Captain on April 30, 1976, with 21 years of service, and remained active as a NASA astronaut involved in the development of NASA's Space Shuttle program.[6][3] He served as a member of the operations and training group within the Astronaut Office, responsible for launch and ascent phases of the Space Shuttle flight program.[6]

Later years[edit]

Evans retired from NASA in March 1977 to pursue a career in the coal industry.[3] Later he worked with Western American Energy Corporation in Scottsdale, Arizona, and was Director of Space Systems Marketing for Sperry Flight Systems.[8]

He died in his sleep of a heart attack in Scottsdale, Arizona, on April 7, 1990, and was survived by his widow Jan; his daughter, Jaime D. Evans (born August 21, 1959); and his son, Jon P. Evans (born October 9, 1961).[9] Evans was buried at the Valley Presbyterian Church Memorial Garden in Paradise Valley, Arizona.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

Evans was presented with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1973, the Johnson Space Center Superior Achievement Award in 1970, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal in 1973, Navy Astronaut Wings, eight Air Medals, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Navy Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing service in 1966. He received a University of Kansas Distinguished Service Citation in 1973, and was named Kansan of the Year in 1972. He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1983,[4][11] and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on October 4, 1997.[8][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NASA Apollo 17 summary page
  2. ^ LePage, Andrew (December 17, 2017). "A History of Deep Space EVAs". Drew Ex Machina.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Biographcal data: RONALD E. EVANS (CAPTAIN, USN RET.) NASA ASTRONAUT (DECEASED)" (PDF). NASA. April 1990. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Military service". New Mexico Museum of Space History. Retrieved August 4, 2016.
  5. ^ Thompson, Ronald (April 5, 1966). "19 New Spacemen Are Named". The High Point Enterprise. High Point, North Carolina. p. 2A – via
  6. ^ a b c d e f Howell, Elizabeth (April 23, 2013). "Ron Evans: Apollo 17 Command Module Pilot". Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  7. ^ Ron Evans quotation
  8. ^ a b "Ronald E. Evans". Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Archived from the original on November 15, 2017. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  9. ^ Date of death according to death certificate issued by the State of Arizona on April 27, 1990, Certificate Number 169985, signed by G. E. Bolduc, MD.
  10. ^ Ronald Ellwin "Ron" Evans Jr. at Find a Grave
  11. ^ Sheppard, David (October 2, 1983). "Space Hall Inducts 14 Apollo Program Astronauts". El Paso Times. El Paso, Texas. p. 18 – via
  12. ^ Meyer, Marilyn (October 2, 1997). "Ceremony to Honor Astronauts". Florida Today. Cocoa, Florida. p. 2B – via

External links[edit]