American astronaut Gene Cernan, commander of Apollo's last lunar landing mission in 1972 and the last man on the moon, died on Monday, January 16, 2017 at age 82.
NASA confirmed on its social media channels and its website that Cernan died surrounded by his family.They did not state the cause of his death, but it is well known that he was ill in the months leading up to his passing.
NASA's online statement read: "We are saddened by the loss of retired NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.A captain in the U.S.Navy, [he] left his mark on the history of exploration by flying three times in space, twice to the moon."
In 1963, NASA selected Cernan as part of its third group of astronauts, and his first spaceflight aboard Gemini 9A launched three years thereafter.This came after he and Thomas Stafford replaced Charles Bassett and Elliot See following the jet crash that killed the original crew members.
Piloting NASA's seventh Gemini Flight, Cernan became the second American astronaut to venture out on an extravehicular activity.The mission in Earth's orbit lasted three days, successfully rendezvoused and failed to dock using an unmanned target vehicle.
Cernan is known also for having said in a NASA interview in 2007, "So, you know about that spacewalk from hell," alluding to his Gemini 9 EVA on June 5, 1966.Another of his notable quotables comes from his NASA oral history: "I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the moon down to 47,000 feet so he would not get lost, and all he had to do was land.Made it sort of easy for him."