Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, died Monday January 16th aged 82, surrounded by his family.
Cernan, a Captain in the U.S. Navy, left his mark on the history of exploration by flying three times in space, twice to the Moon. He also holds the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last human to leave his footprints on the Lunar surface.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement after Cernan’s death, “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”.
A statement from Cernan’s family said in part, “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”.
Gene Cernan was one of 14 astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963. He piloted the Gemini 9 mission with Commander Thomas P. Stafford on a three-day flight in June 1966. He logged more than two hours outside the orbiting capsule.
In May 1969, he was the Lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, the first comprehensive lunar-orbital qualification and verification test of the lunar lander. The mission confirmed the performance, stability, and reliability of the Apollo command, service and lunar modules. The mission included a descent to within eight nautical miles of the Moon’s surface.
“We leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind”. – Cernan’s closing words on leaving the moon at the end of Apollo 17.