Astronaut Eugene Cernan, Who Etched his Daughter's Initials on the Moon, Dies at 82

NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan, known as the "last man on the moon", died on Monday at the age of 82 due to unstated reasons. Cernan, who was born in Chicago, Illinois, is survived by his wife, three daughters and a grandchild.

Eugene Cernan - Last man on the moon
Astronaut Eugene Cernan, seen here aboard the Apollo 17 lunar module on the moon in 1972, died on Jan. 16, 2017. |

The commander of the Apollo 17 lunar landing mission in 1972 (the last one commissioned by NASA), Cernan is also renown for etching his daughter's initials "TDC" on the moon's surface. Since there is no atmosphere or wind on the moon, the writing will likely remain there forever.

NASA confirmed his death on their website and social media channels as the premier space organization paid its tributes to its celebrated former member.

"We are saddened by the loss of retired NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon," NASA wrote. "A captain in the U.S. Navy, [he] left his mark on the history of exploration by flying three times in space, twice to the moon."

Eugene Cernan's Trysts with Space

A former United States Navy Captain, Cernan was recruited by NASA as an astronaut in October 1963. His first venture into space was as a pilot in the Gemini IX mission -- a 3-day endeavor within Earth's orbit. When his spacecraft failed to dock with the previously launched Augmented Target Docking Adapter, Cernan ventured out of the craft and became only the second American to walk in space.

His second space flight was of paramount importance. A member of the 1969 Apollo 10 lunar mission, Cernan, along with the two others, participated in a 'rehearsal' of the endeavor that ultimately landed a person on the moon. As the lunar module pilot, Cernan flew the "Snoopy" lander, along with Astronaut Stafford, to an altitude of just 8.4 miles above the exact point on the moon where Neil Armstrong and his crew would land two months later.

In his witty best, taking credit for the success of Apollo 11, Cernan said in a NASA interview: "I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the moon down to 47,000 feet so he would not get lost, and all he had to do was land. Made it sort of easy for him."

His third, and most memorable spaceflight was as commander of the Apollo 17 lunar landing mission in 1972, at the completion of which he became the last man to step foot on the surface of the moon. At his retirement in 1976, Captain Cernan had logged 566 hours and 15 minutes in space-of which more than 73 hours were spent on the surface of the moon.

His cosmic adventures have been immortalized in several television shows and documentaries -- "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions" by Discovery Channel in 2008, "From the Earth to the Moon," a 1998 HBO miniseries, and "In the Shadow of the Moon," a 2007 British documentary. Cernan also appeared in the 2016 documentary titled "The Last Man on the Moon."

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