Eugene Cernan

Eugene Cernan

Infobox Astronaut
name = Eugene Cernan

type = NASA Astronaut
status = Retired
nationality = American
date_birth = birth date and age|1934|03|14
place_birth = Chicago, Illinois
occupation = Fighter Pilot
rank = Captain, USN
selection = 1963 NASA Group
time = 23d 14h 15m
mission = Gemini 9A, Apollo 10, Apollo 17
insignia =

Eugene Andrew Cernan (born March 14, 1934) is a retired United States Navy officer and a former NASA astronaut of Czechoslovakian ancestry. He has been into space three times: as co-pilot of Gemini 9A in June 1966; as lunar module pilot of Apollo 10 in May 1969; and as commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972. In that final lunar landing mission, Cernan became "the last man on the moon" since he was the last to re-enter the Apollo Lunar Module during its third and final extra-vehicular activity (EVA). He was also a backup crew member for the Gemini 12, Apollo 7 and Apollo 14 missions.

A native of Chicago, Illinois, son of a Czech mother and a Slovak father, he received his father's name, originally spelled Ondrej Čerňan (read Ondrey Chernyan, IPA2|ˈondrɛj ˈtʃɛrɲan). Cernan grew up in the towns of Bellwood and Maywood. He graduated from Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois and Purdue University, where he became a member of Phi Gamma Delta, in 1956, with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. He was commissioned into the United States Navy through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at Purdue, and became a Naval Aviator flying jets. He also holds a M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. In 1976, Cernan retired both from the Navy (as a Captain) and from NASA, and went into private business.

NASA experience

Cernan was selected among the third group of NASA astronauts in October 1963 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to participate in Projects Gemini and Apollo.


Cernan was originally selected as back-up pilot for Gemini IX with Thomas Stafford but when the prime-crew was killed in a plane crash they became the prime crew. Gemini 9A encountered a number of problems; the original target vehicle exploded and the planned docking was made impossible by a protective shroud failing to eject. Cernan performed the second American EVA (only the third ever)but his space suit overheated resulting in a very high heart rate. The crew performed a demonstration of an early rendezvous that would be used in Apollo 10: the first optical rendezvous; and a lunar orbit abort rendezvous.


.While on the moon during Apollo 17, he and his crewmate Harrison Schmitt performed three EVAs for a total of about 22 hours of exploration. Their first EVA alone was over three times the length Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent outside the LM on Apollo 11. During this time they covered over 35 kilometers using the Lunar Rover and spent a great deal of time collecting geologic samples that would shed light on the moon's early history.

As Cernan got ready to climb the ladder he spoke these words, the last currently spoken by a human standing on the moon's surface: "As we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, and God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. As I take these last steps from the surface for some time to come, I'd just like to record that America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. Godspeed the crew of Apollo Seventeen." []

Coincidentally, the first person to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, and the last person to walk on the moon (Cernan), both graduated from Purdue University.


He is the author of "The Last Man on the Moon," his memoirs of his career both with NASA and before.

In the 1998 miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon", Cernan was played by Daniel Hugh Kelly.

Cernan featured in the documentary "In the Shadow of the Moon", and contributed to the book of the same name. He is also featured in the Discovery miniseries "When We Left Earth".

External links

* [ Biographical data from US National Aeronautics and Space Administration]
* [ Cernan Earth and Space Center] , a public planetarium on the campus of Triton College in River Grove, Illinois that is named in Captain Cernan's honor.
* [ Last Man on the Moon]
* [ Gene Cernan flies the Windows-based "Eagle Lander 3D" Simulator]
* [ Eugene Cernan interview on The Sky at Night] (BBC, 29 min, RealPlayer)
* [ - The 1971 Crash of Gene Cernan's Helo]

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