STUDIED: Geology at UiO
CLAIM TO FAME: Currently the most recent man to have walked on the moon.
To those of you who are still sitting at university studying for your exams. Those of you who are struggling to find the motivation to get started on yet another math problem that will take hours, if not days to solve, know this: the University of Oslo (UiO) educates ASTRONAUTS. How cool is that?
Meet Harrison Schmitt, former Republican senator in the state of New Mexico, doctor of geology at Harvard, well-known climate skeptic, and currently the last man to have walked on the moon. He went on an expedition there with Apollo 17 in 1972, and is a former student at UiO. However, it was more or less a coincidence that Schmitt ended up in Oslo, Norway when he went on an exchange.
– I knew virtually nothing about Norwegian culture, but I had heard a lot about Norway’s role during the Second World War. I was also familiar with the work the resistance movement did to prevent the Germans from developing atomic bombs, Schmitt says in his broad southern accent.
– The study advisors at my university, the California Institute of Technology, were very familiar with UiO, and the long history of geology studies in Norway. Besides, I didn’t speak any foreign languages at that time, apart from a little French and German. The fact that you didn’t need to speak Norwegian when you got to UiO was one of the reasons why I chose to study there.
Even though he was a serious and conscientious student, the young American also did his fair share of partying.
– Oslo was a wonderful city. This was not long after the war, so people were in a good mood and there were lots of parties. The other exchange students and I tended to turn up late for the parties, and often the Norwegians had drunk all the liquor by the time we got there. I assume that things are different now, the former astronaut laughs.
One of his most memorable experiences in Oslo was when he saw the northern lights while on the way home to his host family in Bygdøy.
– On New Year’s Eve, we had a party at Blindern that continued until well after midnight. That night I walked from Blindern to Bygdøy, and saw the most fantastic northern lights I have ever seen. They covered the entire sky, and it was unbelievably beautiful. That is something I will never forget.
It was also while he was in Oslo that he first became interested in space.
– I developed an interest in the moon and space while I was in Norway. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite into space, and this is something we students regarded with joy and wonderment.
Even though he learned many things during his studies, there was another skill he acquired in Oslo that would come in handy later on in life.
– I learned how to ski in the Nordmarka forest. This was useful when I walked on the moon, as you need to take long steps in order to get anywhere. Also, the way in which skis help you glide across the snow can to some extent be compared to the weightlessness you experience on the moon. You could kind of say that I learned how to walk on the moon in Oslo.