NASA currently has a rover on Mars. Though this is not the first soft landing on the red planet, it was the first time in human history we could watch the moment a rover set its wheels down on Mars. Though plans for a possible human mission to Mars are not in the works, we can still take a moment to acknowledge the first time humans landed on the moon.
On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong took his place in history by becoming the first person to walk on a surface that was not Earth. When Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins returned to Earth four days later, they fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s decree made before a joint session of Congress in 1961 that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Armstrong and Aldrin wouldn’t be the last people to tread on the moon. Twelve people have walked on the lunar surface, making theirs one of the smallest and most prestigious fraternities on Earth. Their exploits were part of a space race that put the prestige of nations on the line. These are the most unforgettable moments in space exploration.
24/7 Tempo compiled a list of the only people to have left their footprints on the surface of another world by reviewing sources such as the NASA website for biographical information about the astronauts. We then focused on the last of the 12 who did: Eugene Cernan.
All twelve of the moonwalkers were white American males, and they came from nine states. Texas produced three moonwalkers, while two hailed from Pennsylvania. All but one studied aeronautical or astronautical engineering. Many were military test pilots (the “Right Stuff” generation), with some flying combat missions during the Korean War and others prowling the Cold War skies over Europe.
There were only six manned missions to the moon (Apollo 13’s mission had to be aborted), and the last man to walk on the lunar surface did so in 1972. All but four of the moonwalkers have passed away, including Armstrong. Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, continues to look to the stars, believing humankind’s future is on Mars. Evidence for water on Mars first appeared in 2000, when a NASA satellite sent back images of gullies that appeared to have been formed by flowing water.
Cernan (1934–2017) was born in Chicago, Illinois. His time on the moon totaled 22 hours 6 minutes. The duration of his moon mission on Apollo 17 ran from December 7 through December 19, 1972. He flew on three missions: Gemini IX, Apollo 10 and Apollo 17.
Cernan was the last person to walk on the moon. The final words he spoke on the moon were, “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.” Cernan, a staunch advocate of space exploration, was disappointed that he was the last man on the moon.
Prior to his moonwalk, Cernan was the second American to walk in space during the Gemini IX mission in 1966. He was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 10, which flew into space just two months before Apollo 11. Cernan is one of just two men to have flown to the moon on two separate trips.