Eugene Cernan, an early NASA astronaut and the last man to set foot on the moon, has died on Monday, aged 82, according to NASA reports.
Confirming the report, his family in a statement said he died following “ongoing health issues.” They said;
“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.”
Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972 – the last lunar mission and one of the final Apollo flights. When Cernan stepped out from lunar module “Challenger” he became the 11th person to walk on the moon.
His lunar module pilot, Jack Schmitt, was the 12th. But as commander, Cernan was the last to re-enter the lunar module, giving him the designation of being the last person to walk on the lunar surface.
Eugene Cernan had previously served as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 10 and was a pilot on the Gemini IX mission. He became the second American to walk in space on the Gemini IX mission in 1966.
Cernan logged 566 hours and 15 minutes in space, of which 73 hours were spent on the surface of the moon, according to NASA.
Born in Chicago in 1934, Cernan received an electrical engineering degree from Purdue and a Masters of Science in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. A captain in the Navy, he was selected in NASA’s third group of astronauts in 1963.
He retired from NASA and the Navy in 1976. Cernan’s death leaves six astronauts remaining who have walked on the moon.
NASA said Cernan spoke of his “lingering desire” to inspire America’s youth to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics “and to dare to dream and explore.”
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, said; “Gene’s footprints remain on the moon, and his achievements are imprinted in our hearts and memories.”
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His family said up until his death, Cernan was passionate about space exploration and hoped America’s leaders would not let him remain the last man to walk on the Moon.