Eugene Cernan, Last Man on the Moon, Dies at 82

As the commander of Apollo 17, the famed astronaut was one of just a dozen astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface.

Eugene Cernan
Eugene Cernan stands in front of Apollo 10 in 1969.NASA

Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut to step foot on the moon and a naval aviator with more than 200 carrier landings to his credit, died on Monday at age 82.

Cernan died in Houston, with his family at his side, after a long illness.

On December 14, 1972, Cernan became the last of a dozen men to walk on the moon as the commander of the Apollo 17 mission, and one of only two astronauts to descend to the lunar surface twice.

Apollo 17 lifted off on December 7, 1972, and four days later touched down on the surface of the moon. Cernan wrote the initials of his only child, his daughter, Tracy, in the lunar dust.

Cernan had previously served as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 10 and was a pilot on the Gemini IX mission.

On the Apollo 10 flight, Cernan and Commander Tom Stafford flew to within 8 miles of the surface of the moon, a mission that served as a "dress rehearsal" for the historic Apollo 11 landing two months later.

Cernan became the second American to walk in space on the Gemini IX mission in 1966.

In the Navy he flew F-4s and A-4s, retiring from the military and NASA in 1976. Later in life, Cernan became a staunch advocate or aviation safety, presenting at Bombardier's Safety Standdown sessions. NBAA honored Cernan with its Meritorious Service to Aviation Award in 2013 at its annual convention, which he regularly attended.

His death follows the recent passing of another famous astronaut, former U.S. Sen. John Glenn, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, who died on December 8.