NASA’s Moonwalkers — Eugene Cernan
Space travel is the dream of many, but the privilege of very few. Only the best of the best earned the opportunity to participate in NASA’s Apollo missions. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of the most important astronauts in this era of space travel.
Captain Eugene Cernan, a Chicago native born in 1934, traveled to Space on three occasions during his 13-year career with NASA. Head over to our globe to view Apollo 17’s hex, the landing site of Cernan’s final trip to space. You might even find somewhere to begin your own journey in Moon Metaverse!
Cernan began his early career as a flight trainee in the Navy, accumulating thousands of flight hours in jet aircraft. This experience proved valuable and in 1963 it earned him a place in NASA’s astronaut program. Just three years later he found himself aboard Gemini 9A after a tragic accident killed the spacecraft’s original crew.
During the Gemini mission, Cernan completed the third-ever spacewalk, becoming the second American to complete an extravehicular activity. His exploits in space continued when he joined the Apollo missions a few years later.
As the lunar module pilot for 1969’s Apollo 10 mission, Cernan’s job was to simulate every phase of a lunar landing up to the final descent. This mission took Cernan and his Commander, Tom Strafford, to within 15.7km of the lunar surface and provided NASA with essential knowledge for Apollo 11’s successful landing just two months later.
Cernan’s third and final trip to space saw him touch down on the Moon. As Commander of Apollo 17, the last of NASA’s scheduled missions, Cernan contributed to several record-setting achievements.
Alongside lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt, Cernan completed 22 hours of lunar exploration. This far exceeded the length Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin completed with Apollo 11. The time was spent wisely with Cernan and Schmitt collecting a record 34kg of samples, providing valuable insight into the Moon’s early history.
Before heading back home to Earth, Cernan took the lunar rover out on its final journey. Heading downhill, the rover reached speeds of 18kph, setting a new lunar land speed record!
Until the next manned mission to the Moon, Cernan will be remembered for his extraordinary contributions to NASA’s space missions and as the last man to step foot on the lunar surface!