Capt. Eugene A. Cernan, the last human to walk on the moon, passed away yesterday at the age of eighty-two. Cernan lived and worked in Texas and was the author of The Last Man on the Moon. Recently, he wrote the foreword for Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon (Nebraska 2016). To celebrate this astronaut’s life, here are his own words about his NASA career.
Over the past four decades, hardly a day has gone by when I am not asked about some aspect of being the last man to stand on the moon. Millions upon millions of words have been written about this amazing adventure, and yet people are still curious to know what it was like. I even wrote my own book, not just to help answer many of these questions but also so that my own grandchildren would know through my words what it was like to live out my dreams. I did not think there could possibly be another book about the Apollo program that would reveal something new or some avenue that had not been explored. But I was wrong.
This is a book about some extraordinary men I worked with in accomplishing that lunar triumph. Most were my good friends as well as colleagues, but tragically they fell short of their dreams. In eight years we went from blasting a man into space on a quick ballistic flight to that incredible day in July 1969 when Neil Armstrong first set foot on another world. For each of those eight years we lost an astronaut, but the tremendous pain of this loss could not be sustained for long in our nation’s race to the moon. Mission followed hard on the heels of mission, and our training took place at breakneck speed as engineers and planners worked with diligence and inspiration to achieve our goal of a manned lunar landing.
This wonderful book brings back many profound and even long-forgotten memories of the men behind those eight names—not just as NASA astronauts training to go into space (and these stories are told) but as loving sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers whose loss still sits deep in the hearts of those they left behind.
Read more from Fallen Astronauts by Colin Burgess and Kate Doolan with Bert Vis here.