A farewell to the last man on the Moon

A look back at Gene Cernan's achievements and hopes for space exploration.
24 January 2017

Interview with 

Captain Eugene Cernan, NASA


We were saddened to hear NASA Astronaut Captain Eugene Cernan - the last man on the Moon - passed away. Tom O’Hanlon reports...

I was strolling on the Moon one day, in the merry, merry month of December...May...May is the month ...

Tom - On 16th January 2017, the last human to stand on the Moon passed away: Captain Gene Cernan, heard there in a lunar duet with fellow Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt. Gene travelled into space 3 times on Gemini 9A, Apollo 10 and as Commander of Apollo 17. He‘s also one of only three people to have travelled to the Moon twice. Back in 2014, the Space Boffins podcast interviewed Gene and he encouraged others to literally follow in his footsteps, but also to explore the rest of our solar system...

Gene - All we’ve done now is proved we can do it, closed the barn door and said be happy about it - that’s not good enough. We are going to go back to the Moon and why? All we did was prove we can work and survive up there. Now we’ve got to take advantage of the resources the Moon has to offer us here on this planet.

It’s a stepping stone to go to that place called Mars. Is there water? Was there water? Could life exist? Is Mars like Earth was a billion years ago or is Mars like Earth might be a billion years in the future? Maybe we’re going to go simply because it’s there. Simply because we can, and that’s why... we will.

Tom - Using the Moon as a stepping stone to explore Mars would help us further our understanding of the Universe and our place within it. But not only that, if humanity is to survive the threats - of dinosaur-killing asteroids, supervolcanoes or even a nuclear war - we need to have a backup home. And Mars is the only candidate so far.

With current levels of interest, a mission to Mars may be on the cards sooner rather than later.

Gene - I don’t care if it’s two years, ten years or fifty years. I’d like it to be tomorrow morning… it ain't gonna be. But those young kids are going to follow in our footsteps, they’re going to pick up where we left off and take us back out there where we belong.

Tom - In December 1972, as Gene prepared to return to planet Earth, he scratched his daughter’s initials into the lunar surface and left us with these words:

Gene - And as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind.


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