Monday, November 12, 2007

1972: last man on the moon

Eugene Andrew Cernan (born 1934) is a retired US Navy officer and former NASA astronaut. He has been into space three times: as co-pilot of Gemini 9A in 1966; as lunar module pilot of Apollo 10 in 1969; and as commander of Apollo 17 in 1972. He was also a backup crew member for the Gemini 12, Apollo 7 and Apollo 14 missions.

In that final lunar landing mission in 1972, Cernan became "the last man on the moon" since he was the last to re-enter the Apollo Lunar Module during its third and final extra-vehicular activity (EVA).

A native of Chicago, Cernan grew up in the towns of Bellwood and Maywood, IL. He graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. He was commissioned into the US Navy through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at Purdue, and became a Naval jet flyer. He also holds a M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. In 1976, Cernan retired both from the Navy (as a Captain) and from NASA, and went into private business.

Cernan is one of only three men to voyage to the moon on two different occasions (the others being Jim Lovell and John Young), and one of only twelve men to walk on the moon. Cernan orbited the moon on Apollo 10, and landed on the moon on Apollo 17.

While on the moon during Apollo 17, he and his crewmate Harrison Schmitt performed three EVAs for a total of about 22 hours of exploration. Their first EVA alone was over three times the length Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent outside the LM on Apollo 11. During this time they covered over 35 kilometers using the Lunar Rover and spent a great deal of time collecting geologic samples that would shed light on the moon's early history.

As Cernan got ready to climb the ladder he spoke these words, as of now the last spoken by a human on the moon: "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. As I take these last steps from the surface for some time to come, I'd just like to record that America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. Godspeed the crew of Apollo Seventeen."

Cernan is the author of The Last Man on the Moon, a memoir of his career with NASA and before. CLICK to order the book. (info & photo from Wikipedia)

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