Eugene Cernan, last man on the moon, dies at 82

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Eugene Cernan (Photo courtesy of NASA).

Eugene A. Cernan, the last astronaut to leave his footprints on the surface of the moon, has died, NASA said Monday.

He was 82.

“We are saddened by the loss of retired NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon,” the US space agency said on Twitter.

Cernan, a Purdue University alumnus, was one of fourteen astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963. He served as as spacecraft commander of Apollo 17, the last scheduled manned mission to the moon for the United States. The mission launched on December 6, 1972 and returned on December 19.

The mission established several new records for manned space flight, including longest manned lunar landing flight (301 hours, 51 minutes), and longest lunar surface extravehicular activities (22 hours, 6 minutes).

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels issued this statement:

“Gene Cernan was a true hero, a pioneer in aviation and, to us, one of the greatest Boilermakers of all time. He will be remembered in the history books as the most recent human to step on the moon. We will remember him as a valued friend and an inspiration to take risks and reach for our goals.”