Gene Cernan, an early NASA astronaut who was the last man to set foot on the moon, died Monday, NASA announced in a tweet. He was 82.
— NASA (@NASA) January 16, 2017
Captain Cernan was one of the only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972. He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time. Cernan had travelled into space twice before that – in 1966 and 1969.
Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972 – the last lunar mission and one of the final Apollo flights. When Cernan stepped out from lunar module “Challenger” he became the 11th person to walk on the moon. His lunar module pilot, Jack Schmitt, was the 12th. But as commander, Cernan was the last to re-enter the lunar module, giving him the designation of being the last person to walk on the lunar surface.
The veteran explorer logged 566 hours and 15 minutes in outer space, of which 73 hours were spent on the surface of the moon, according to NASA.
In the 2007 documentary “In The Shadow Of The Moon,” Cernan spoke of the epiphany he experienced while standing on the desolate — yet majestic — surface.
“There is too much purpose, too much logic, it was just too beautiful to happen by accident,” Cernan said. “There has to be somebody bigger than you and bigger than me…And I mean this in a spiritual sense, not in a religious sense, there has to be a creator of the universe who stands above the religions that we ourselves create to govern our lives.”
He retired in 1976 from NASA and the Navy in 1976 four years after his landmark lunar adventure, going into private business and contributing to US television channels on a variety of issues.
Cernan was born on 14 March 1934, in Chicago.