Last week, American astronaut Capt. Eugene A. Cernan passed away. Colin Burgess and Kate Doolan, authors of Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon, Revised Edition, remember him fondly. Burgess is the author or editor of several books on spaceflight, including Footprints in the Dust: The Epic Voyages of Apollo, 1969–1975 (Nebraska, 2010). Doolan is a longtime space researcher and writer.
From Colin Burgess: “I was privileged over the years to meet and talk with Gene Cernan on several occasions. Despite his many achievements in the history of space exploration he was always an unpretentious and humble man, who left an indelible impression on anyone who shared time with him. His talks and interviews were uplifting experiences; he was a superb and gifted orator, speaking with great passion and authority about his experiences as a Gemini and Apollo astronaut, but constantly expressing profound regret that we had not pursued a return to the Moon. In his lifetime, he always expressed a desire to finally shrug off that history-imposed sobriquet of last man on the moon, but that would not happen. A great man, and sadly missed.”
Kate Doolan: “Gene Cernan was the epitome of a naval officer and gentleman. His willingness to interact with the public and encourage young people on the importance of education, made him one of the best known astronauts. Whilst best known for his Apollo 17 flight, he made other substantial contributions to the space program with the flights of Gemini IX and Apollo 10.
On leaving NASA, he became an erudite spokesperson for the space program with his media appearances and the best selling memoir The Last Man on the Moon.
Sadly, his goal of not being the last person on the Moon was not achieved in his lifetime.
He will be sadly missed by everyone involved with the space program.”