Though Captain Gene Cernan has died, the mark he left on history will never be forgotten. And those of us fortunate enough to have a personal memory of him know for certain that this modern day explorer was one of a kind.
Here is my experience that I wrote about in my photography book “Houston’s Millennium Makers” back in 1999, along with some of the photographs I took that day:
At NASA, in front of a spacecraft astronaut Gene Cernan rode in, I got a historical overview of the space program while shooting his photos. He was the last man to walk on the moon. How did that change his life? “I’ve been thinking about that ever since,” he said. “It’s so overwhelming, I’ll be analyzing that forever.” He believed there is ‘most definitely’ life on other planets. “It would be very small minded of us to think we’re the only ones.” One of the most interesting facts he told us was that only two people can touch the space capsule and the space suit- the one who wore it and went on the mission- and the President of the United States. When Tom Hanks came to Houston for the filming of his space film, he got in the capsule, which resulted in a call from The Smithsonian –they were upset!
The quote he gave to be printed below his photo in my book was: “The greatest challenge of a generation, perhaps of the century, was born and nurtured to reality here in Houston, Texas.”
Being a Houston photographer for over 40 years I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many different and amazing people but my discussions with Captain Gene Cernan were truly a once in a lifetime experience. While he described standing on the moon looking back at earth I realized I was a lucky guy to be hearing first hand the adventures of this modern day explorer.
“Too many years have passed for me to still be the last man to have left his footprints on the Moon. I believe with all my heart that somewhere out there is a young boy or girl with indomitable will and courage who will lift that dubious distinction from my shoulders and take us back where we belong. Let us give that dream a chance.” – Captain Gene Cernan
Eugene Andrew “Gene” Cernan
March 14, 1934 – January 16, 2017