Eugene Cernan: 1934-2017
Eugene Cernan died yesterday after numerous health complications. A Captain in the U.S. Navy, he holds the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last human to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
In 1963, Cernan was one of 14 astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963. His first space mission was piloting the Gemini 9 mission with Commander Thomas P. Stafford on a three-day flight in June 1966. Cernan logged more than two hours outside the orbiting capsule.
In 1969, he was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, the first comprehensive lunar-orbital qualification and verification test of the lunar lander. The mission confirmed the performance, stability, and reliability of the Apollo command, service and lunar modules. The mission included a descent to within eight nautical miles of the moon’s surface.
In a 2007 interview for NASA’s oral histories, Cernan said, “I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the Moon down to 47,000 feet so he wouldn’t get lost, and all he had to do was land. Made it sort of easy for him.”
On July 1, 1976, Cernan retired from the Navy –after 20 years –and ended his NASA career. He went into private business and served as television commentator for early flights of the space shuttle.
Eugene Cernan was born in Chicago on March 14, 1934. He graduated from Proviso Township High School in Maywood, Ill., and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in 1956. He earned a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
He is survived by his wife, Jan Nanna Cernan, his daughter and son-in-law, Tracy Cernan Woolie and Marion Woolie, step-daughters Kelly Nanna Taff and husband, Michael, and Danielle Nanna Ellis and nine grandchildren.
In 2016 his film biography “The Last Man on the Moon” was shown nationwide in movie theaters.
More than 12,000 photos from Apollo 7 to Apollo 17 (1972) have been released into the public domain. While Apollo 8’s Colonel Frank Borman’s photograph of earth is widely acknowledged, so too do we observe with respect this photo dubbed “Blue Marble” by Eugene Cernan and wish him Godspeed.
“Blue Marble” from Apollo 17.