Astronaut Eugene Cernan Dies


Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, died Monday at the age of 82. Cernan has been suffering from a “long illness” when he died surrounded by family. “Even at the age of 82, Gene was passionate about sharing his desire to see the continued human exploration of space and encouraged our nation’s leaders and young people to not let him remain the last man to walk on the moon,” his family said in a statement. Cernan was the last commander of an Apollo moon mission and left his mark on the dusty surface in December of 1972 on Apollo 17.

He went through ROTC and earned his wings with the Navy in 1956, logging 5,000 hours in jets and accumulating 200 carrier landings. He was selected in the third group of astronauts in 1963 and first went to space as pilot of Gemini 9 in 1966. He was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10 and descended to within 50,000 feet of the surface, a dress rehearsal for the July 1969 Apollo 11 mission that fulfilled a promise made by President John F. Kennedy a scant six years earlier. He retired from NASA in 1976 but stayed active in the space program as a news commentator and as a tireless proponent of continued space exploration. “The U.S. desperately needs to do something to recapture the pioneering spirit that allowed it go to the Moon,” he wrote on his webpage, which he updated until recently. Below is an excerpt from his acclaimed documentary Last Man on the Moon.