Eugene Cernan, the last man who left his footprints on the surface of the moon passed away at the age of 82. “It is with very deep sadness that we share the loss of our beloved husband and father. Our family is heartbroken, of course, and we truly appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers. Gene, as he was known by so many, was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend,” his family said in a statement released by NASA.
“Even at the age of 82, Gene was passionate about sharing his desire to see the continued human exploration of space and encouraged our nation’s leaders and young people to not let him remain the last man to walk on the Moon,” the family added.
Cernan was with his family and friends at a Houston hospital, where he was being treated for ongoing health issues when he passed away.
“We are saddened by the loss of retired NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon,” NASA wrote in a tweet.
Cernan holds several distinctions to his credit. He first served as a Naval Aviator before taking the front seat on NASA’s Gemini 9A mission, where he became the second American to walk in space. He also holds the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last human to leave his footprints on the surface of the moon.
— NASA (@NASA) January 16, 2017
In May 1969, he was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10. The mission included a descent to within eight nautical miles of the moon’s surface. As a crew member of both the Apollo 10 and 17 missions, he was one of three men to have flown twice to the moon and he holds several records including the record for longest manned lunar landing flight, longest lunar surface extravehicular activities, largest lunar sample return, and longest time in lunar orbit.
He concluded his historic career as commander of the last human mission to the moon in December 1972.
Cernan is survived by his wife, Jan Nanna Cernan, his daughter and son-in-law, Tracy Cernan Woolie and Marion Woolie, step-daughters Kelly Nanna Taff and husband, Michael, and Danielle Nanna Ellis and nine grandchildren.