He became the last of only a dozen men to walk on the moon on December 14, 1972—tracing his only child's initials in the dust before climbing the ladder of the lunar module the last time.
Former astronaut Gene Cernan, the last person to walk on the moon who returned to Earth with a message of "peace and hope for all mankind," died on Monday in a Houston hospital following ongoing heath issues, his family said. He was 82.
"It is with very deep sadness that we share the loss of our beloved husband and father," said Cernan's family. "Our family is heartbroken, of course, and we truly appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers. Gene, as he was known by so many, was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend."
NASA expressed their condolences with the following statement, "We are saddened by the loss of retired NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon," the administration said in a Monday afternoon tweet.
Cernan, commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972, was the 11th person to walk on the moon, and the last one.
Humbled by his life experiences, particularly as an Apollo Astronaut, the retired Naval officer recently said, "I was just a young kid in America growing up with a dream. Today what's most important to me is my desire to inspire the passion in the hearts and minds of future generations of young men and women to see their own impossible dreams become a reality."
Cernan, a captain in the US Navy, flew in space three times, including two trips to the moon. He was one of 14 astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963.
Cernan was commander of NASA's Apollo 17 mission and on his third space flight when set foot on the lunar surface in December 1972. He became the last of only a dozen men to walk on the moon on December 14, 1972—tracing his only child's initials in the dust before climbing the ladder of the lunar module the last time. It was a moment that forever defined him in both the public eye and his own.
"Those steps up that ladder, they were tough to make," Cernan recalled in a 2007 oral history. "I didn't want to go up. I wanted to stay a while."
Cernan called it "perhaps the brightest moment of my life. ... It's like you would want to freeze that moment and take it home with you. But you can't."
"Even at the age of 82, Gene was passionate about sharing his desire to see the continued human exploration of space and encouraged our nation's leaders and young people to not let him remain the last man to walk on the Moon," the family continued.
Godspeed and thank you, Astronaut Cernan, from Satnews Publishers.