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RIP: Eugene Cernan – Last Astronaut on the Moon

Captain Eugene Cernan, 82, passed away Januaury 16, 2017
Image NASA

Eugene Cernan, 82, passed away Monday January 16, 2017 a hospital in Houston. Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon in the Apollo 17 lunar mission. The Apollo 17 mission set several records on the flight: longest manned lunar landing flight, longest time in lunar orbit, largest lunar sample return, for Cernan, the unofficial land speed record on the moon in a rover.

Cernan attended Purdue University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1956. While at Purdue, Cernan entered the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps leaving university for the U.S. Navy at the rank of Ensign. While in the Navy, he attended Naval Postgraduate School receiving a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Having logged over 5,000 hours of flight time and most of that in a jet, he was selected for the astronaut program on the third round of selection. Cernan’s first space mission was aboard the Gemini 9A module. He also flew in the Apollo 10 module leading up to Apollo 11 actually landing on the moon. Cernan had been selected for Apollo 16, but held out, waiting for a command role in Apollo 17, the mission he was finally able to land on the moon. Cernan stated, even years later, didn’t care that other men had already walked on the moon, this had been his first time to be there.

Cernan on the 3rd EVA of Apollo 17.
Image: NASA

Cernan’s last words on the moon were as quoted by NASA: “Bob, this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record: that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

Cernan always retained his sense of awe about the moon. The iconic image of “The Big Blue Marble” was taken on his flight to the moon. He stated about that as shared by The Guardian, “What is the real meaning of seeing this picture? I’ve always said, I’ve said for a long time, I still believe it, it’s going to be – well, it’s almost 50 now, but 50 or 100 years in the history of mankind before we look back and really understand the meaning of Apollo … really understand what humankind had done when we left, when we truly left this planet, we’re able to call another body in this universe our home. We did it way too early considering what we’re doing now in space.” Adding, “It’s almost as if JFK reached out into the 21st century where we are today, grabbed hold of a decade of time, slipped it neatly into the 1960s and 70s [and] called it Apollo.”

NASA confirmed his death earlier today on their twitter stating:

Actor Gary Senise who played in Apollo 13 Tweeted:

Fellow Apollo 13 actor Tom Hank Tweeted:

Star Trek‘s Michael Okuda Tweeted:

Our hears go out to Cernan’s family. God Speed, Captain!

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