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Wednesday January 18th, 2017

Gene Cernan, American Astronaut and Hero, Passes at 82

1982 Inductee into the International Space Hall of Fame

(Alamogordo, New Mexico, January 17, 2017) – The staff of the New Mexico Museum of Space History express their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Astronaut Gene Cernan. Cernan passed away Monday, January 16, 2017, following on-going health issues. He was 82 years old. Although Cernan earned several distinctions during his career at NASA, he is best known as the Commander of Apollo 17 and the last man to walk on the moon.

IMAGE: Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan stands on the moon next to the American flag. A close look at his helmet visor reveals a reflection of fellow astronaut, and New Mexico native, Harrison “Jack” Schmitt taking the picture. (Courtesy NASA/Schmitt)

Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan stands on the moon next to the American flag. A close look at his helmet visor reveals a reflection of fellow astronaut, and New Mexico native, Harrison “Jack” Schmitt taking the picture. (Courtesy NASA/Schmitt)

“The passing of Gene Cernan has saddened us immensely. Losing him so soon after John Glenn is a reminder that a remarkable era in American space exploration is drawing to a close. The Apollo astronauts were, and are, among the nation’s most revered heroes. As one by one they slip the surly bonds of Earth, we must commit to honor their legacy and celebrate those who remain at every given opportunity,” said Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll. Of the 32 astronauts chosen by NASA to fly in the Apollo manned lunar landing program, only 12 actually walked on the moon. With Cernan’s passing, just six moonwalkers remain.

Gene Cernan was born on March 14, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois. He received a degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University, where he also received his commission through the Navy ROTC program. He entered flight training after graduation and earned a Master of Science degree from the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California. In 1963, he was one of fourteen astronauts selected by NASA for the Gemini program and he went on to become one of the few people who flew to the moon twice. Cernan was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 10 in 1969, the first comprehensive lunar-orbital qualification and verification test of the lunar lander. As commander of Apollo 17 in 1972, he and his crewmate, Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, lived on the moon for more than three days and completed three very successful excursions to nearby craters and the Taurus-Littrow Mountains. Cernan retired from the Navy and NASA in 1976 and entered into private business.

Gene Cernan was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in 1982. He was the recipient of two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and two Navy Distinguished Service Medals among many other prestigious awards. He is survived by his wife Jan Nanna Cernan, his daughter and son-in-law, two step-daughters and their husbands, and nine grandchildren.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at www.nmspacemuseum.org. Like us at: www.facebook.com/NMSpaceMuseum/