They were a part of an elite group…the men who walked on the moon. They had the privilege of going somewhere that few humans would get to go. It was a small group of just twelve men, but only three of the twelve got to walk on the moon twice, and only Captain Gene Cernan got to be the last human being to leave a footprint on the lunar surface. The final words he spoke on the Moon on December 14, 1972 represented everything the Apollo missions stood for. He said, “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”
Captain Gene Cernan was the third man to walk in space, one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface…the last one!! How amazing is that? Some things are almost to big to imagine, and walking on the moon is one of them for me. The really shocking thing for me is that the last man walked on the moon 45 years ago today…and no human has been there since that day. I wonder how much Captain Cernan has thought about that fact over the last 45 years. I’m sure he has had to tell people about it more times that he can count, too. I suppose it would be strange to have your whole identity to the world be that you were the last man to set foot on the moon, but then again, I think it might be extremely cool too. Now, consider what his wife was thinking those two times her husband was in space and walking on the moon. Well, she has been quoted as saying, “If you think going to the Moon is hard, you should try staying at home.” Yes, I imagine that would be a tough job too, especially after Apollo 13 almost didn’t make it back to Earth.
As for Cernan, he has been said to be sad that the American space program has dwindled into nothing. All the hard work they had done, and all the accomplishments, now seemingly not important. He was quoted as saying, “It was if someone took Columbus’ Santa Maria and said: It’s history – you guys discovered America, let’s take it out and scuttle it. It’s over, you’re not going to go anywhere. To think of what we were capable of doing and now we’ve been told [in a tweet by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin] that if we want to go to our own space station, we’d better get a trampoline – that statement hurt. It hurt me personally.” Yes, it hurts me too, and I have never been to the moon. So how much did it hurt for those twelve men who walked on the moon…Neil Armstrong – Apollo 11 July 21, 1969, Buzz Aldrin -Apollo 11 July 21st, 1969, Pete Conrad – Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969, Alan Bean – Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969, Alan Shepard – Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971, Edgar Mitchell – Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971, David Scott – Apollo 15 July 31 August 2, 1971, James Irwin – Apollo 15 July 31 August 2, 1971, John W. Young – Apollo 16 April 21st to 23rd, 1972, Charles Duke – Apollo 16 April 21-23, 1972, Harrison Schmitt – Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972, and lastly Eugene Cernan – Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972. It’s like having your life’s work thrown away.