As our next way to celebrate the road to Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary, we have a quick bio on astronaut Gene Cernan. Cernan led the final Apollo mission in 1972, the last time a crewed mission went to Earth’s lunar satellite. Cernan was the 11th person to walk on the moon, but his career left a much wider mark than just those footprints in the lunar soil.
Cernan served as a pilot in the Navy, had a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering and flew into space three times. He also earned two NASA Distinguished Service medals, two Navy Distinguished Service medals and the Navy’s Distinguished Flying Cross.
During his first trip into orbit aboard Gemini 9, Cernan became the second American to take a spacewalk. Cernan also descended towards the moon in the lunar lander during the Apollo 10 mission but did not land. As such, he’s the only person to have made two different lunar descents.
Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17, leading Harrison Schmidt down to the lunar surface in the lander “Challenger.” Their command module, America, is on display in Space Center Houston’s Starship Gallery.
In all, the astronauts brought back 243 pounds (110 kilograms) of lunar samples and spent 75 hours on the surface of the moon.
Cernan’s final words from the moon voiced an idea he championed throughout his life: that he not be the final person to stand on that lunar soil.
“America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow,” Cernan said. “As we leave the moon and Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”