After splashdown and recovery, the Apollo 17 astronauts were guests of honor at a dinner onboard the recovery carrier, U.S.S. Ticonderoga.
NASA photo S72-56040 shows Jack Schmitt at the head table talking to a young man who is not identified in the NASA caption. Based in information obtained from the website Apollo at American Samoa, compiled by David J. Herdrich of the Office of the Governor of American Samoa, Kevin Steen of Carefree, Arizona, was 12 years old at the time and was a guest of Admiral Butts, shown in the next picture.
NASA photo S72-56037 shows Gene Cernan (second from the left) at the head table, seated with an unidentified naval officer (left); Rear Admiral John Butts, Jr. (second from the right), Commander Task Force 130, Pacific Recovery Area; and Capt. Norman Green (far right), Commanding Officer of the Ticonderoga.
The following material from Apollo at American Samoa is used with permission.
Extract from The News Bulletin For The People of American Samoa: Thursday, December 14, 1972.
APOLLO PLANS SETA 12-member Congressional delegation will visit American Samoa enroute to the Carrier Ticonderoga where they will witness the splashdown of the Apollo 17 astronauts next Thursday.
The group is scheduled to arrive by Air Force plane at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday. They will be greeted at the airport and will be guests at a Government House reception Saturday evening. Sunday morning they will tour the island before leaving at 1:15 p.m. for the carrier.
The group included members of the Senate and House Aeronautical and Space Science Committees and the House Appropriations Committee.
Tentatively listed as members of the delegation are Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, Senator Lowell P. Weiker of Connecticut, Senator Roman L. Hruska of Nebraska, Representative George P. Miller of California, Representative Barry Goldwater, Jr., of California, Representative Edward P. Boland of Massachusetts, Representative George E. Shipley of Illinois, Representative Robert N. Giaimo of Connecticut and Representative Del Clawson of California.
They will be accompanied here by Major General John C. Giraudo, director of legislative liason in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Colonel Veron L. Frye, liaison officer for the Air Force, and Dale Grubbs, Ralph Culberson and Robert Hood of the National Aeronautics and Agency.
The Congressional delegation will return here Tuesday following the splashdown and will remain overnight, leaving for Washington early Wednesday.
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Also arriving Saturday will be Rear Admiral John L. Butts, commander of Task Force 130, the Navy support unit for the splashdown. He will be joined by Donald Stulken, senior NASA officer aboard the Ticonderroga, who will be flown in from the carrier. They will pay a courtesy call on Governor John M. Haydon and go to the carrier later in the day.
Admiral Butts will be accompanied by 12 year-old Kevin Steen of Carefree, Arizona. Admiral Butts invited Kevin to make the trip after learning that he is dieing of cancer and has always been a fan of the astronuats.
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NASA also announced the schedule for the astronauts return to earth at Pago Pago International Airport.
The splashdown will come at 9:24 a.m. Tueday and the carrier will then steam north. They will arrive at the airport about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday for a traditional Samoan welcome before boarding their plane for the Space Center in Houston.
Governor (John) Haydon greets Kevin Steen and Rear Admiral John L. Butts.
(Photograph courtesy of the Jean P. Haydon Museum.)
Apollo 17 Astronauts and special guest 12 year old Kevin Steen on grand stand at Pago Pago International Airport, Tafuna, American Samoa.
(Photograph courtesy of the Richard A. Moore family.)