Gene Cernan, the last human (to date) to walk on the Moon, died on January 16. He was 82 years old.
As a member of the Apollo 17 crew in December 1972 (along with Harrison Schmitt), Cernan became the last of the twelve original Apollo astronauts to walk — as well as drive — on Luna. Cernan and Schmitt landed on the Moon on December 11, 1972, while Ronald E. Evans orbited in the Command Module.
Apollo 17 was Cernan’s third journey into space, having also been aboard the Gemini 9A and Apollo 10 missions.
Eugene Andrew Cernan was born on March 14, 1934, in Chicago and was educated in public schools in the city’s suburbs. He graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1956.
While at Purdue, he received a Navy ROTC scholarship; he was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy after graduating from college, attended flight school and became a fighter pilot in Attack Squadrons 126 and 113.
Cernan completed his education in 1963 at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., earning his Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Later that same year, he was selected as a member of NASA Group 3 — also known as “The Fourteen” — which also included Buzz Aldrin, William Anders, Charles Bassett, Alan Bean, Roger Chaffee, Michael Collins, Walter Cunningham, Donn Eisele, Theodore Freeman, Richard Gordon, Russell Schweickart, David Scott and Clifton Williams.
Of that group, Cernan was one of five to fly on both a Gemini and Apollo mission, and was the only one to fly on two Apollo missions.
He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1976 and entered private business, and later contributed to ABC News’ space and science coverage. His memoir, “The Last Man on the Moon,” written with Donald A. Davis, covering his naval and NASA career, was published in 1999.
“We leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”
— Gene Cernan’s final words as he left the Moon in 1972
PHOTO CREDIT: All images via NASA.