Retired Astronaut Gene Cernan Dead at 82

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Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17 in 1972, which ended up being the last lunar mission and one of the final Apollo flights. Cernan holds distinction as the last man to step on the moon.

Cernan's second journey into space was as the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10 in 1969 - considered the dress rehearsal for the first moon landing because it achieved all the necessary objectives short of an actual lunar landing.

Cernan retired from NASA in 1976.

Born in Chicago, Illinois on March 14, 1934, Cernan was a lifelong aviator, receiving his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University before pursuing his Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from the United States Naval Post Graduate School in 1963.

Although Cernan is believed to have prepared a long speech for when he left the moon, it seems a briefer farewell was in order during actual preparations for returning to Earth.

Astronaut Eugene "Gene" Cernan, Commander of Apollo 17 and the most recent person to stand on the surface of the moon, has died at age 82.

His first opportunity was marked by tragedy as the original crew of Gemini 9 were killed in a plane crash, which caused Cernan to move from backup astronaut to flight crew.

Yet, it was Cernan's role in the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972 that truly helped make him a household name among USA astronauts.

"We had a lunar rover, we were able to cover more ground than most of the other missions". I've always said, I've said for a long time, I still believe it, it's going to be - well it's nearly 50 now, but 50 or a hundred years in the history of mankind before we look back and really understand the meaning of Apollo. That was during the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.

Capt. Eugene Cernan on the lunar surface, next to the American flag.

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