Last man to walk on the moon, Gene Cernan, 82, died today in Texas. After walking on the moon he returned to Earth with a message, “peace and hope for all mankind.” His family said he had been having ongoing health issues. He was with his family when he died at a Houston hospital, according to family spokeswoman Melissa Wren.
Throughout his life Cernan was passionate about his desire to see the continued human exploration of space. He encouraged national leaders and young people to not let him remain the last person to walk on the moon, his family said.
Cernan was commander of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission. During his third space flight he set foot on the lunar surface in Dec 1972. He shared the moon walk with 11 other astronauts. Before he re-boarded the lunar module for the last time, he traced his only child’s initials in the dust. In 2007 he said, “Those steps up that ladder, they were tough to make. I didn’t want to go up. I wanted to stay a while.”
During the mission Cernan and his travel mates spent more than 22 hours outside the lander. They collected 249 pounds of lunar samples. He said, “In that whole three days, I don’t think there’s anything that became routine. But if I had to focus on one thing…it was just to look back at the overwhelming and overpowering beauty of this Earth.”
On his last mission he said, “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”