We lost another one today, another hero of my youth.
Captain Gene Cernan was a Naval Aviator and test pilot who became the second American to walk in space, on Gemini 9. It nearly killed him. He was the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 10, the “dress rehearsal” mission prior to Apollo 11. It nearly killed him. He was the mission commander on Apollo 17 where he landed on the moon along with Harrison Schmitt, spent three days and three hours there, made three EVAs of over seven hours each, and drove all over the Taurus-Littrow valley, bringing back 243 pounds of samples.
He was “the last man on the moon.” When he stepped off of the lunar soil and onto the ladder after his third EVA on December 14, 1972, we stopped putting new footprints in lunar soil. When the Apollo 17 crew splashed down on December 17, 1972, it marked the last time that humans have ventured beyond low Earth orbit.
For the last forty-five years, Cernan has constantly said that he hoped that before he died he would no longer be the last man on the moon. We let him down.
That’s criminal in my book.
Fair winds and following seas, Captain. We’ll be following someday, hopefully soon, hopefully in my lifetime, but someday.
The circumstances in which human history does not include a return to the moon are too horrible and depressing to contemplate.