CLEVELAND (WJW) – 50 years ago, on Wednesday, NASA launched its final mission from a program that made history.

When Apollo 11 put a man on the moon in 1969, it inspired an entire generation. 

This included a then 10-year-old Scott Graham, who watched every moment of its coverage. 

“As a young kid, I have to say it really inspired me to want to pursue a career in the space program, even back at that early age,” said Graham. 

However, by 1972, Apollo 17’s launch to space began the end of an era.

Graham, the Associate Director of Space Flight at NASA Glenn Research Center, says space travel was in transition at the time and Apollo was headed for retirement. 

“Even though it was still a great accomplishment, and we did a lot of great science exploration on the moon, there certainly wasn’t as much public interest at the time,” explained Graham. 

NASA Glenn, then known as NASA Lewis, did not play a big role in Apollo 17’s launch. 

However, the Apollo program might not have existed without the Cleveland-based department, which pioneered a groundbreaking rocket fuel that quite literally fueled each mission. 

“The work we did with hydrogen directly contributed to Apollo’s Rocket, the Saturn 5,” shared Graham. 

Fast forward to the present day, the Glenn research team is once again playing a huge role in NASA’s latest program, Artemis. 

Artemis hopes to capture our generation in the same way Apollo did. 

“Ultimately, the first human landing mission, Artemis 3, will be the first human landing mission on the moon since Apollo 17,” shared Graham. 

On Dec. 7, 1972, the Apollo 17 crew launched into space and became the last to step foot on the moon.

50 years later, it is people such as Graham, who were inspired by Apollo’s success, that is hoping to take man back to the moon and beyond. 

“I’m just as excited now as a 60-some-year-old, finishing my NASA career as I was as a 10-year-old watching man walk on the moon with Apollo 11 for the first time,” said Graham.