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article imageGene Cernan, last man to walk on the moon dead at 82

By Arthur Weinreb     Jan 17, 2017 in Science
Houston - Gene Cernan passed away on Monday at age 82. Although his family did not release details of the cause of the former astronaut’s death, he had been in ill health for several months. Cernan is being remembered as the last human to walk on the moon.
NASA confirmed Cernan’s death in a Houston hospital on its website and on social media. A statement from NASA said the agency was saddened by his death and added he left his mark on history by going into space three times and going to the moon twice.
In December 1972, Cernan was part of the crew of Apollo 17, the last manned flight to the moon. He and fellow astronaut Harrison Schmitt set several records after they reached the moon including the longest time ever spent on the moon (almost 302 hours), the longest time spent in extravehicular activities (over 22 hours) and the longest time spent in lunar orbit (147 hours, 48 minutes). As well, the Apollo 17 astronauts brought back a record number of moon rocks.
While not as well-known as the first words ever spoken on the moon, Cernan, as mission commander, boarded the lunar module after Schmitt and spoke the last words from the lunar surface. Cernan said, “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”
Eugene Andrew Cernan was born in Chicago on Mar. 14, 1934. He graduated from Purdue University with an electrical engineering degree and then joined the navy. He obtained a Master’s Degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Since joining the ROTC at Purdue, Cernan logged more than 5,000 flying hours and made several landings on aircraft carriers.
Cernan was selected for the astronaut program in October 1963 and first flew in space three years later. He and Astronaut Thomas Stafford were chosen to fly the Gemini 9 mission after the original crew, Elliot See and Charles Bassett, were killed in a plane crash. While orbiting the Earth for three days in June 1966, Cernan became only the second man to walk in space. Malfunctions in his spacesuit and uncontrollable tumbling almost killed him but he managed to make it back to the capsule.
In May 1969 Cernan and Stafford were joined by Astronaut John Young for the Apollo 10 mission. A precursor to Apollo 11 that saw men walk on the moon, Cernan and Stafford flew in the lunar module to approximately eight miles above the moon's surface.
After retiring from the astronaut program in 1976, Cernan went into private business. However, he remained in the pubic eye and made numerous media appearances to make the case for continued space exploration and for more manned missions to the moon.
Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon and a member of Cernan's astronaut class, issued a statement expressing his condolences. Aldrin also said Cernan was not happy about being the last person to walk on the moon. He described Cernan as one of the greatest advocates for further manned lunar missions.
Cernan is survived by his wife, daughter, two stepdaughters and nine grandchildren.
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