If the guidance failed or started to stray or went somewhere we didn’t like or the ground didn’t like, I could flip a switch, and I could control seven, over seven and a half million, pounds of thrust with this handle and fly the thing to the Moon myself. —Eugene Cernan
Here I am at the turn of the millennium and I’m still the last man to have walked on the moon, somewhat disappointing. It says more about what we have not done than about what we have done. —Eugene Cernan
December 27, 1968 — Apollo 8 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, ending the first orbital manned mission to the Moon.
…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 Gene Cernan—the last man on the Moon—prior to reentering the Lunar Module for the final time.
Note: According to Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham in his book The All-American Boys, Cernan’s final words on the moon were: “Let’s get this mutha out of here.”
Enriched by a singular event that is larger than life, I no longer have the luxury of being ordinary. To stand on the lunar surface and look back at our Earth creates such a personal sense of awe that even Alan Shepard wept at the view. Trying to exist within the paradox of being in this world after visiting another may be why some Moon voyagers tend to be reclusive. —Eugene Cernan
July 21, 1969 – At 02:56 UTC, astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes the first person to walk on the Moon.