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Gene Cernan’s life: The Last man to walk on moon was also the fastest on it

Gene Cernan, the last astronaut to walk on the moon - an experience that he said made him “belong to the universe”, died on Monday at the age of 82, the US space agency said.

world Updated: Jan 17, 2017 13:11 IST
This undated photo provided by Nasa shows astronaut Eugene Cernan.
This undated photo provided by Nasa shows astronaut Eugene Cernan.(AP File Photo)

Gene Cernan, the last astronaut to walk on the moon - an experience that he said made him “belong to the universe”, died on Monday at the age of 82, the US space agency said.

Cernan died surrounded by his family, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement without providing details.

A separate statement from his family and released by Nasa said his death came after “ongoing health issues”.

Here are a few facts about him: 

Spacewalk from hell

In addition to being one of 12 men to walk on the moon, Cernan was the third person to walk in space, following Russian Alexei Leonov and American Ed White.

Cernan spent two hours and seven minutes outside the Gemini 9 spacecraft on the 1966 mission but had to come in early because his helmet visor was fogging up due to exertion. Because the spacewalk was shortened, Cernan did not have a chance to test a new jetpack. He recalled the incident in his memoir in a chapter titled “The Spacewalk From Hell.”

Fastest man on moon

Cernan holds the moon’s speed record, having driven the lunar rover at 11.2 miles per hour (18km per hour) on a downhill run.

Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan makes a short checkout of the Lunar Roving Vehicle on the moon. (Nasa via AP File Photo)

Almost missing the moon

He almost missed out on Apollo 17 because he severely strained a tendon in his leg playing softball with Nasa personnel two months before the launch. He used crutches for a week and willed himself not to limp so Nasa officials would not pull him from the mission but said walking on the moon was painful.

Security threat

Security at Cape Kennedy had to be increased for Apollo 17 because of the threat of attack from Black September, the Palestinian group that had killed 11 Israelis at the Summer Olympics in Munich three months earlier. Officials also were concerned about the astronauts’ families, so authorities followed their children’s school buses and federal agents kept an eye on their classrooms.

Former astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, stands next to a wall of photographs he made on the Apollo 17 mission, at the Museum of Natural History in New York. (Reuters File Photo)

Nasa reprimand

Less than two weeks after returning from the moon, Cernan and crew mate Ron Evans went to Bimini in the Bahamas for New Year’s as the guests of the chief executive of Rockwell International. Cernan said the executive was an old friend but there were conflict of interest concerns in Washington because Rockwell manufactured modules for Nasa spacecraft. Cernan was given a letter of reprimand from the agency.

Third meets first

Cernan met Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, at Purdue University, where they studied in the 1950s.