Tag Archives: Apollo

Gene Cernan (1934-2017)

Gene Cernan, the last human being to walk on the moon, passed away today in a Houston hospital, surrounded by friends and family.

…As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record: that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.

Despite never seeming to smile for photographs, Captain Cernan was a noted humourist–even being invited to roast legendary comedian Don Rickles. Additionally, he was a bit of a speed demon: He rode aboard fastest manned vehicle ever recorded (22,791mph) during Apollo 10’s return from the moon and he holds the land-speed record for any extraterrestrial time trial, racing the lunar rover up to a screaming 11.2mph!

After NASA, Cernan became a contributor to ABC news, published a memoir about his US Navy and NASA career, appeared in several documentaries about space exploration, and even testified before Congress with fellow Apollo alum Neil Armstrong in opposition to the Obama administration’s cancellation of the Constellation program.

There is also the story about how he wrote his daughter’s name in the lunar sand before boarding the LM for the return to earth, making him the first graffitist to tag a celestial body.

Godspeed, Captain Cernan. Godspeed, indeed.

The Apollo Program’s Wasted Potential

Not much infuriates me more than limitless scientific, technological, and humanitarian potential squandered at the hands of an apathetic public. It was this sort of apathy in the American people that led the United States government to shut down the Apollo program after it was just barely getting the training wheels off. Had we continued to explore Luna throughout the 1970s with the same gusto as the Apollo G-H missions, there is absolutely no telling where we, as a nation and as a species, could’ve been by now.

What if Johnson had got it wrong? What if, somehow, Americans cared more about space exploration and so sought to wring from their $24-billion Apollo investment everything they could?

We are only just now making the small, cautious steps back into the Universe beyond our atmosphere–mostly thanks to the retirement of the ill-advised Shuttle program and ironic “re-ignition” of Apollo-era technology. If the program had continued on the track as originally proposed, we may have already been living in the Tomorrowland vision of the future instead of dreaming about it while riding Space Mountain.

David Portree has a great article at WIRED about that alternative history and where we could’ve been by the dawn of the digital age.