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17 Jan 2017

Last man to walk on the moon dies aged 82

Former astronaut Eugene A. Cernan passed away aged 82 in Texas due to ongoing health problems.

Cernan was the commander of NASA's Apollo 17 mission and became the last person to ever walk on the moon in December 1972.

He returned to Earth after the mission with a message of "peace and hope for all mankind."

In context

Last man to walk on the moon dies

He inscribed his daughter's initials on the lunar surface

Cernan drew the letter "T.D.C." with his fingers on the lunar surface. These are the initials of Teresa Dawn, his then 9-year-old daughter. He later imagined that someone from a distant civilization would find these "funny marks" and wonder "who was there?"

Tracing his life

How Cernan ended up at NASA

Cernan was born in 1934 in Chicago and graduated with an electrical engineering degree from Indiana's Purdue University in 1956.

He was a US Navy fighter pilot who later completed master's degree in aeronautical engineering.

In 1963, NASA selected him as one of 14 members of its third astronaut class.

"He's your classic sort of handsome debonair flyboy," said space historian Roger Launius said.

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Risked his life

Cernan's "spacewalk from hell"

In 1966, Cernan was piloting the Gemini 9 spacecraft and began hiss three-day flight.

He became the second American to walk in space, spending two hours outside the spacecraft.

Cernan's equipment wasn't working effectively. He sweat so much that he lost nearly six kgs.

Cernan later described the near life-ending experience the "spacewalk from hell."


Cernan paved way for Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 mission

Cernan flew on the Apollo 10 spacecraft in May 1969 which was a dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 lunar landing by Neil Armstrong.

He flew to within 9.5 miles of the moon's surface aboard the lunar module Snoopy.

In 1973, Cernan became special assistant to the Apollo program's manager. He also played a crucial role in the US-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz mission.

Cernan spent an equivalent of 23 days in space

Cernan was one of three people to voyage to the moon twice, once by orbiting the moon and once on its surface. In all, he spent 566 hours and 15 minutes in space, including over 73 hours on the moon's surface.

Full of support

Cernan remained steadfast in support for lunar exploration

Cernan's family spokesperson said following his death that his devotion to lunar exploration never diminished.

In 2011, he testified before the US Congress to ensure that he doesn't remain the last man to walk on the moon.

"Neil (Armstrong, who died in 2012) and I aren't going to see those next young Americans who walk on the moon. And God help us if they're not Americans," he said.

Cernan recalls his moonwalk

"In that whole three days, I don't think there's anything that became routine," Cernan recalled about his moonwalk. "But if I had to focus on one thing ... it was just to look back at the overwhelming and overpowering beauty of this Earth."

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