The last man to walk on the moon, retired Navy Captain Eugene Cernan died today, January 16, 2017 at the age of 82.
Not only remembered as the last man on the moon, Cernan may very well have been the most colorful man on the moon. On his Apollo 17 mission he did not want to come in from his moon walks and was so active ‘bouncing’ around the lunar surface he worried NASA controllers that he may overheat in his spacesuit.
He also entertained the entire world while he and fellow astronaut Jack Schmitt began singing “I was strolling on the Moon one day, in the very merry month of May…no, December.”
Watch Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan singing on the moon
Watch Gene Fall Down on the Moon
Gene Cernan was one of many NASA astronauts who were profoundly changed by their visit to the moon. In the documentary, “In the Shadow of the Moon” Cernan reflected on what he felt during those memorable moments on the surface of the moon:
“There is too much purpose, too much logic, it was just too beautiful to happen by accident,” Cernan said. “There has to be somebody bigger than you and bigger than me…And I mean this in a spiritual sense, not in a religious sense, there has to be a creator of the universe who stands above the religions that we ourselves create to govern our lives.”
Before being selected as a NASA astronaut Cernan was a Naval Aviator.
The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the passing of Gemini and Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan:
“Gene Cernan, Apollo astronaut and the last man to walk on the moon, has passed from our sphere, and we mourn his loss. Leaving the moon in 1972, Cernan said, ‘As I take these last steps from the surface for some time into the future to come, I’d just like to record that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow.’ Truly, America has lost a patriot and pioneer who helped shape our country’s bold ambitions to do things that humankind had never before achieved.
“Gene first served his country as a Naval Aviator before taking the pilot’s seat on the Gemini 9 mission, where he became the second American to walk in space and helped demonstrate rendezvous techniques that would be important later. As a crew member of both the Apollo 10 and 17 missions, he was one of three men to have flown twice to the moon. He commanded Apollo 17 and set records that still stand for longest manned lunar landing flight, longest lunar surface extravehicular activities, largest lunar sample return, and longest time in lunar orbit.
“Gene’s footprints remain on the moon, and his achievements are imprinted in our hearts and memories. His drive to explore and do great things for his country is summed up in his own words:
‘We truly are in an age of challenge. With that challenge comes opportunity. The sky is no longer the limit. The word impossible no longer belongs in our vocabulary. We have proved that we can do whatever we have the resolve to do. The limit to our reach is our own complacency.’
“In my last conversation with him, he spoke of his lingering desire to inspire the youth of our nation to undertake the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studies, and to dare to dream and explore. He was one of a kind and all of us in the NASA Family will miss him greatly.”
To the end, Gene was an advocate of a strong US space program. Watch below as he discussed his passion to become a Naval Aviator and the importance of US space exploration.
Another famous NASA astronaut, John Glenn recently died on December 8th, 2016 at the age of 95.
Featured Image of Eugene Cernan by NASA/Bill Ingalls, via Wikimedia Commons