Gene Cernan, Last Man to Walk on the Moon, Has Died
He made his third space flight as spacecraft commander of Apollo 17—the last scheduled manned mission to the moon for the United States—which commenced at 11:33 P.M. (CST), December 6, 1972, with the first manned nighttime launch, and concluded on December 19, 1972. With him on the voyage of the command module “America” and the lunar module “Challenger” were Ronald Evans (command module pilot) and Harrison H. (Jack) Schmitt (lunar module pilot). In maneuvering “Challenger” to a landing at Taurus-Littrow, located on the southeast edge of Mare Serenitatis, Cernan and Schmitt activated a base of operations from which they completed three highly successful excursions to the nearby craters and the Taurus mountains, making the Moon their home for over three days. This last mission to the moon established several new records for manned space flight that include: longest manned lunar landing flight (301 hours 51 minutes); longest lunar surface extravehicular activities (22 hours 6 minutes); largest lunar sample return (an estimated 115 kg (249 lbs.); and longest time in lunar orbit (147 hours 48 minutes). While Cernan and Schmitt conducted activities on the lunar surface, Evans remained in lunar orbit aboard the “America” completing assigned work tasks requiring geological observations, handheld photography of specific targets, and the control of cameras and other highly sophisticated scientific equipment carried in the command module SIM-bay. Evans also completed a 1-hour, 6-minute extravehicular activity on the transearth coast phase of the return flight, successfully retrieving three camera cassettes and completing a personal inspection of the equipment bay area. Apollo 17 ended with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean approximately 0.4 miles from the target point and 4.3 miles form the prime recovery ship USS TICONDEROGA.
Captain Cernan has logged 566 hours and 15 minutes in space-of which more than 73 hours were spent on the surface of the moon.”
Captain Cernan was the second American to have walked in space having spanned the circumference of the world twice in a little more than 2-1/2 hours. He was one of the two men to have flown to the moon on two occasions, and as commander of the last mission to the moon, Apollo 17, had the privilege and distinction of being the last man to have left his footprints on the surface of the moon.