The last man to leave his footprints on the surface of the Moon, Eugene A Cernan, a crack naval aviator sought out and recruited by NASA as a Moon mission commander, has died today. He was 82.
Gene Cernan flew the LM on Apollo 10 down from orbit to fairly close to the lunar surface, (NOT landing) and then did it again on the mission he commanded, Apollo 17, in which he landed and spent three days on the surface.
A graduate of Purdue University’s Electrical Engineering School, he was very generous in his visits and time spent back at the University in later years. He spent many hours with aerospace engineering graduate students like me, answering questions about the technical aspects of his flights. I got to meet him on a number of occasions, and he was always very gracious, humble and rock solid, as one would expect from a naval aviator who slammed hurtling pieces of burning metal onto the decks of aircraft carriers about 200 times. Ice water flowed in his veins, and I was quite sure that he was one of those Apollo commanders for whom space flight was nothing to get excited about. Godspeed, Gene.