Tag Archives: Apollo 17

Eugene Andrew Cernan (14 March 1934–16 January 2017)

Eugene A. Cernan, Mission Commander, inside the Lunar Module Challenger after the third EVA, 13 December 1972. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)
Eugene Andrew Cernan (The Provi of 1952)

Eugene Andrew Cernan was born at Chicago, Illinois, 14 March 1934. He was the second child of Andrew George Cernan, a manufacturing foreman, and Rose A. Cihlar Cernan. Gene Cernan graduated from Proviso East High School, Maywood, Illinois, in 1952.

Cernan entered Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, as an engineering student. He was a midshipman in the U.S. Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C.), and a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity (ΦΓΔ) , serving as treasurer. He was also president of the Quarterdeck Society and the Scabbard and Blade, and a member of the Phi Eta Sigma (ΦΗΣ) honor society and Tau Beta Pi (ΤΒΠ) engineering honor society. He served on the military ball committee and was a member of the Skull and Crescent leadership honor society. During his Midshipman Cruise in 1955, Cernan served aboard the Worcester-class light cruiser USS Roanoke (CL-145). Cernan graduated from Purdue in 1956 with Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering (B.S.E.E.).

Cernan was commissioned as an ensign, United States Navy, 2 June 1956, and was assigned to flight training. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade), 1 December 1957. Lieutenant Cernan completed flight school and qualified as Naval Aviator. He was assigned to Attack Squadron 126 (VA-126) at NAS Miramar, San Diego, California, flying the North American Aviation FJ-4B Fury. On 1 June 1960, Cernan was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

North American Aviation FJ-4B Fury of VA-126, circa 1960. (U.S. Navy)

Lieutenant Eugene A. Cernan married Miss Barbara Jean Atchley, 6 May 1960, at San Diego. Mrs. Cernan was a flight attendant for Continental Airlines. They would have a daughter, Tracy. The Cernans divorced 7 July 1981.

Lieutenant Cernan was next assigned to Attack Squadron 113 (VFA-113) at NAS Lemoore, California. VFA-113 (“Stingers”) flew the Douglas A-4C Skyhawk, and deployed aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CVA-19).

Eugene A. Cernan, NASA Astronaut, circa 1964. (NASA)

Cernan earned a Master of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California, in 1963.

In October 1963, Lieutenant Cernan was selected as an Astronaut for the National Aviation and Space Administration (NASA). He was one of 14 members of NASA Astronaut Group 3, which was announced 18 October 1963.

Gene Cernan was promoted to the rank of commander, United States Navy, 3 June 1966. He flew as pilot of Gemini IX-A, 3-6 June 1966. (Thomas P. Stafford was the command pilot.) The mission included a rendezvous with a Lockheed Agena target vehicle. A planned docking with the Agena could not be carried out because the docking shroud had failed to deploy correctly. On 6 June, Cernan conducted an “EVA” (Extravehicular Activity, of “space walk”). During the 2 hour, 7 minute EVA, numerous difficulties were encountered.

Astronaut Gene Cernan outside the Gemini IX-A capsule in earth orbit, 6 June 1966, (NASA S66-38515)
In a ceremony held at The pentagon, Admiral David L. McDonald, Chief of Naval Operations, pins astronaut wings on Commander Eugene A. Cernan, 26 July 1966. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)

Commander Cernan was next assigned as the backup pilot of Gemini XII and backup lunar module pilot of Apollo 7.

Gene Cernan was the Lunar Module pilot of Apollo 10, the full rehearsal for the first lunar landing, 18 May–26 May 1969. He flew the LM Snoopy to 47,400 feet (14,445 meters) above the lunar surface at 21:29:43 UTC, 22 May.

Apollo 10 Lunar Module Snoopy photographed by John Watts Young just after separation from the Command and Service Module Charlie Brown. Gene Cernan can be seen in the window on the left. (NASA)

Cernan was promoted to the rank of captain, United States Navy, 10 July 1970. He was next assigned as the backup to Alan B. Shepard as mission commander for Apollo 14.

On 23 January 1971, Cernan was flying a Bell Model 47G-3B-1 helicopter, NASA 947 (N947NA, serial number 6665), on a proficiency flight, when it crashed in the Indian River near Malabar, Florida. The helicopter was destroyed and Cernan was slightly injured. The official investigation reported the cause as a “misjudgement in estimating altitude.” In his autobiography, Cernan wrote,

Without ripples, the water provided no depth perception and my eyes looked straight through the clear surface to the reflective river bottom. I had lost sight of the water.

The Last Man on the Moon, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1999, Chapter 25 at Page 258

Captain Eugene A. Cernan, U.S.N., in the cockpit of NASA 947, a Bell 47G-3B-1, as it hovers in ground effect, circa 1971. (NASA)

Gene Cernan’s third space flight was as commander of Apollo 17, 6–19 December 1972, with Ronald E. Evans as Command Module pilot and Harrison H. Schmitt as the Lunar Module pilot. Cernan and Schmitt were on the surface of the Moon for 3 days, 2 hours, 59 minutes, 40 seconds. During that time they made three excursions outside the lunar lander, totaling 22 hours, 3 minutes 57 seconds.

Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the Moon in the Twentieth Century. Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon.

Eugene A. Cernan at the Taurus-Littrow Valley during the third EVA of the Apollo 17 mission. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)

Gene Cernan retired from the United States Navy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1 July 1976. According to his NASA biography, Cernan had logged 566 hours, 15 minutes of space flight.

In 1987 Cernan married Jan Nanna (née Janis E. _) at Sun Valley, Idaho. She had two daughters, Kelly and Daniele, from a previous marriage.

Captain Eugene Andrew Cernan, United States Navy (Retired) died at a hospital in Houston, Texas. His remains were buried at the Texas State Cemetery at Austin, Texas.

Eugene Andrew Cernan (NASA)

© 2018 Bryan R.. Swopes

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19 December 1972 19:24:59 UTC, T plus 301:51:59

The Apollo 17 command module America (CM-112) descends to the South Pacific under three parachutes. (NASA)
The Apollo 17 command module America descends toward the surface of the South Pacific Ocean under three parachutes. (NASA)

19 December 1972: At 2:25 p.m. EST—12 days, 13 hours, 51 minutes, 59 seconds after departing the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida—the Apollo 17 command module America (CM-112) returned to Earth, splashing down in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately 350 miles (563 kilometers) southeast of Samoa. The three 83 foot, 6 inch diameter (25.451 meters) ring sail main parachutes had deployed at an altitude of 10,500 feet (3,200 meters) and slowed the capsule to 22 miles per hour (35.4 kilometers per hour) before it hit the ocean’s surface.

USS Ticonderoga (CVS-14) slowly approaches the Apollo 17 command module. Rescue swimmers have attached a flotation collar as a safety measure. (NASA)
USS Ticonderoga (CVS-14) slowly approaches the Apollo 17 command module. Rescue swimmers have attached a flotation collar as a safety measure. (NASA)

The landing had a high degree of accuracy, coming within 4.0 miles (6.44 kilometers) of the recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CVS-14).

The flight crew was picked up by a Sikorsky SH-3G Sea King helicopter, Bu. No. 149930, of HC-1, and transported to Ticonderoga. The three astronauts, Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald A. Evans and Harrison H. Schmitt, stepped aboard the aircraft carrier 52 minutes after splashdown.

The splashdown of Apollo 17 brought to an end the era of manned exploration of the Moon which had begun just 3 years, 3 days, 5 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds earlier with the launch of Apollo 11.

Only 12 men have set foot on The Moon. In 46 years, no human has returned.

An Apollo 17 astronaut is hoisted aboard the hovering Sikorsky SH-3G Sea King, Bu. No. 149930. USS Ticonderoga stands by. (NASA)
An Apollo 17 astronaut is hoisted aboard the hovering Sikorsky SH-3G Sea King, Bu. No. 149930. USS Ticonderoga stands by. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 December 1972 22:54:36 UTC, T plus 188:01:36

Apollo 17 lunar lander and lunar rover on the surface of the moon. (NASA)

14 December 1972: At 4:54:36 p.m., CST (Houston time), the Ascent Stage of the Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger lifted off from the landing site in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. On board were Mission Commander Eugene A. Cernan and the LM Pilot, Harrison H. Schmitt.

The two Astronauts had been on the surface of the Moon for 3 days, 2 hours, 59 minutes, 40 seconds. During that time they made three excursions outside the lunar lander, totaling 22 hours, 3 minutes 57 seconds.

Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the Moon in the Twentieth Century. Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon.

The Apollo 17 ascent stage lifts off from the Taurus-Littrow Valley at 2254 UTC, 14 December 1972. The takeoff was captured by a television camera which had been left on the surface of the Moon. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 December 1972

Eugene A. Cernan at the Taurus-Littrow Valley during the third EVA of the Apollo 17 mission. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)
Eugene A. Cernan at the Taurus-Littrow Valley during the third EVA of the Apollo 17 mission. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)

13 December 1972: At approximately 22:26 UTC, NASA Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt began the last of three moon walks, or EVAs, on the surface of the Moon at the Taurus-Littrow Valley.

“Bob, [Robert A.P. Parker, Astronaut, Houston Mission Control Cap Com]  this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

— Astronaut Eugene Andrew Cernan, Captain, USN, at the Taurus Littrow Valley, The Moon, at Mission Time 170:40:00

Eugene A. Cernan, Mission Commander, inside the Lunar Module Challenger after the third EVA, 13 December 1972. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)
Eugene A. Cernan, Mission Commander, inside the Lunar Module Challenger after the third EVA, 13 December 1972. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)

This was the final EVA of the Apollo Program, lasting approximately 7 hours, 15 minutes. Then Harrison H. Schmitt and Gene Cernan climbed up into the Lunar Module Challenger to prepare to lift off the following day.

Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon.

Harrison H. Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot, inside the LM after the final EVA of teh Apollo Program, 13 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Harrison H. Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot, inside the LM after the final EVA of the Apollo Program, 13 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 December 1972 19:54:58 UTC, T plus 110:21:58

Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands in front of the lunar lander Challenger (LM-12) and the lunar rover, 01:13:58 UTC, 12 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands in front of the lunar lander Challenger (LM-12) and the lunar rover, 01:13:58 UTC, 12 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

11 December 1972, 19:54:58 UTC: Apollo 17 lunar module Challenger with astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt landed at the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon.

Apollo 17 was the last manned moon mission.

Gene Cernan was the last human to stand on the lunar surface.

Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt and the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt and the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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