Geologist Harrison Schmitt was Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 17 and the last person to arrive on the moon. He was the only real scientist to walk on the moon.

Schmitt had all of the training that other Apollo astronauts received, and was qualified to fly both the CM and LM. However, he was the first astronaut who hadn't previously been a military pilot (and prior to Apollo 17, all had been military test pilots). His Wikipedia article notes:

Following his selection, Schmitt spent his first year at Air Force UPT learning to become a jet pilot.

One year of training is also confirmed by Chariots for Apollo:

In June, NASA announced that 6 scientist-astronauts had been chosen from 16 nominated by the science board. In the group were one geologist (Harrison H. Schmitt), two physicians (Duane E. Graveline and Joseph P. Kerwin), and three physicists (Owen K. Garriott, Edward G. Gibson, and F. Curtis Michel). Two of the men, Kerwin and Michel, were qualified jet pilots, but the others were not. These four reported to Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, on 29 July for a year of flight training before joining their colleagues in Houston.

However, that doesn't tell me if he completed military pilot training, or if he had a civilian pilot's license.

At the time of Apollo 17, was Schmitt legally a pilot (i.e. military certification or a civilian license)? He may have met NASA's requirements, but that's not what this question is about. If not, perhaps that would make him NASA's only pilot-class astronaut who wasn't legally a pilot.

  • $\begingroup$ "he was the first astronaut who hadn't previously been a military pilot " Well, one of the first. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Astronaut_Group_4 The first to fly. $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2019 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ Could you say a few more works about what you mean by “legally a pilot”? At least in the US, you’re allowed to pilot a craft you have a current certification for, and not allowed to pilot ones you’re not. One can be certified to fly the hottest jet in the sky, and at the same time “not legally a pilot” of a Cessna 150. Isn’t then somebody certified to pilot an CM a pilot? I must be missing the distinction you want to make. $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2019 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ This is nitpicking, but Buzz Aldrin had a doctorate and it is my understanding that he developed most of the techniques for orbital rendez-vous. He might take umbrage at being excluded form the "real" scientists ^^ $\endgroup$
    – armand
    Jul 12, 2019 at 3:07
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    $\begingroup$ More nitpicking, He was "one of the two latest people to arrive on the moon". They arrived in pairs, then set foot on the surface of the Moon one after the other. Go tell Aldrin he was "the second man on the moon" and watch his reaction ;-) $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2019 at 5:14

2 Answers 2


According to the FAA Airman Search Harrison Schmitt did not hold a Civil (FAA) Pilot Certificate during his flight to the moon, in fact, the only Civil Certificate Harrison holds is a Student Pilot Certificate issued on 4/18/2018. (The FAA does keep records going back to the 60s and before, see Maurice D Watson)

This does not preclude the possibility he was issued an Air Force Jet Pilot Certificate (this seems likely). He was trained (along with the rest of the 1965 Scientist Group) to Fly Jet Trainers at Williams AFB, in Arizona, the location of the 3525th Pilot Training Wing.

I believe Schmitt held an Air Force Jet Pilot Certificate at the time he went to the moon.


According to his bio for the Heartland Institute:

Dr. Schmitt was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in June 1965. He later completed a 53-week course in flight training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona.

So I believe that year of flight training did yield a military certification.


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