Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Last Man on the Moon

Gene Cernan died on Monday, January 16, 2017.  I am more than a bit embarrassed to admit that when news of his death came across my cell phone in the form of an alert from USA Today, I had no idea who he was or the many, incredible things that he had accomplished.  

Cernan was the last person to walk on the moon.  He did so in December, 1972, as the commander of Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon.  Apollo 17's mission is historically significant for what it accomplished even prior to Cernan and his crew mate, Harrison "Jack" Schmidt, making three separate excursions around the moon, during which the two men spent more than three days on the moon.  It was while Apollo 17 was on its way to the moon, on December 7, 1972, that its crew captured a view of Earth that was almost immediately christened "The Blue Marble".  A simply stunning, extraordinary image. 

In 1976, after a twenty-year career in the United States Navy, including three trips into space (two of which were trips to the moon), Captain Gene Cernan retired from the Navy and from NASA. Upon his retirement, among other things, he wrote his memoir, The Last Man on the Moon, and became a contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America".  At the time of his death, on Monday, he was eighty-two years old. 

Gene Cernan walked his final steps - and as of today mankind's most recent steps - on the moon approximately forty-five years ago.  As he prepared to leave the moon for the final time, climbing up the ladder behind Schmidt, he spoke words that are as hopeful now as they were when he spoke them, even if we seem sometimes to be as far away from attaining them as we are from the moon itself: 

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.



No comments: