On January 16th, 2017, astronaut Eugene Cernan passed away at the age of 82. Though not as well known as other famous space-goers, Cernan left behind an incredible legacy, including being the last person to walk on the moon.
In the spirit of preserving his legacy, and perhaps boosting his status in pop culture, here are five things you absolutely need to know about The Last Man on the Moon, Eugene Cernan.
He went to Purdue University
Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, has the honor of being the alma mater of two moonwalkers. Neil Armstrong graduated in 1955 and Eugene Cernan in 1956, which means not only was the college host to both the first and last man on the moon, but they both attended at the same time. Cernan received a degree in Electrical Engineering.
He was a Navy pilot
Cernan spent 20 years in the Navy, logging more than 5,000 hours of flying time and completing more than 200 aircraft carrier landings. He retired in 1976, having achieved the rank of Captain.
Third man to spacewalk
Eugene Cernan was only the third human being to ever perform EVA (extravehicular activity, commonly known as a spacewalk). During the Gemini 9A mission in June of 1966, he spacewalked for two hours, breaking the previous record of 21 minutes set by American astronaut Edward White.
First to use AMU
For use during his spacewalk in 1966, Cernan was outfitted with the first ever AMU (Astronaut Maneuvering Unit), which allows astronauts some mobility during spacewalks. On previous spacewalks, astronauts had no control over their movements other than holding onto a tether that would keep them from floating away.
However, due to fatigue and overexertion, Cernan was not able to employ the use of this new technology as the spacewalk was cut short.
Lunar land speed record
Eugene Cernan also has the distinction of holding the lunar land speed record. He and his crewmate, Harrison Schmitt, explored the Taurus-Littrow Valley for 22 hours, covering 35km during their Apollo 17 mission in December of 1972.
This mission not only broke the speed record, which they did by accelerating to 18km/h in the lunar rover, but is also the longest any astronauts spent outside of the lunar module.
Went to the moon twice
On top of everything else, he is one of only three people to have made multiple trips to the moon.
Along with the Apollo 17 mission, he served as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 10 in May of 1969, which was a dress rehearsal for the equipment that was going to be used on Apollo 11’s pioneering lunar mission. Although no landing was made, Cernan still piloted the module to within 15km of the lunar surface, coming closer than any other human had in the past.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would land on the moon two months later.
Apollo 10 speed record
Perhaps the coolest fact of all is that Eugene Cernan, Tom Stafford and John Young, have traveled faster than any other human beings in history.
Apollo 10 set the record of 39,897km/h for the highest speed ever attained by a manned vehicle.
A record which still stands to this day.