This Stinks: Gene Cernan dead at 82 January 16, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in Four Last Things, General Catholic, history, manhood, sadness, Society, technology, Victory.
The old Apollo guys are going to their reward one by one. Who is left at this point that walked on the moon? Buzz Aldrin, Al Bean, Dave Scott, John Young, Charlie Duke, and Jack Schmitt. All are in their 80s.
But today the last man to walk on the moon died. Gene Cernan, who lived outside Kerrville, was 82:
Gene Cernan, an early NASA astronaut who was the last man to set foot on the moon, died Monday, NASA announced in a tweet. He was 82.
Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972 – the last lunar mission and one of the final Apollo flights. When Cernan stepped out from lunar module “Challenger” he became the 11th person to walk on the moon. His lunar module pilot, Jack Schmitt, was the 12th. But as commander, Cernan was the last to re-enter the module, making him the last person to walk on the lunar surface.
Cernan had previously served as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 10 and was a pilot on the Gemini IX mission.
Cernan logged 566 hours and 15 minutes in space, of which 73 hours were spent on the surface of the moon, according to NASA.
Cernan was one of only three men to travel to the moon twice. The other two were Jim Lovell (still alive) and John Young.
There was a big row in NASA in the first half of 1970 when Nixon foolishly decided to gut the Apollo program (although, in his defense, most all of NASA management wanted it gutted, too). After it was announced that Apollos 18-20 would be cancelled, even though the hardware was already almost entirely built (everything but the LMs for Apollo 19 and 20), the scientific community got all fired up because the then-current crew rotation would mean that no scientist would fly to the moon if Apollo 17 was the last mission. The first scientist scheduled to go was Jack Schmitt to the Tycho Crater on Apollo 18 with Commander Dick Gordon. No Apollo 18 meant no scientist on the moon.
But not so fast. The science guys raised a big enough ruckus that NASA management was “encouraged” to change the crew rotation. Gordon and Schmitt had been training together for 6 months at that point so Gordon hoped the entire crew for 18 would just replace Gene Cernan’s crew for 17. That would have left Cernan out in the cold. But instead, the awesomely skilled former X-15 pilot Joe Engle was bumped as LMP from Apollo 17 in favor of Schmitt, and Dick Gordon had to watch his chance to be the somewhat famous last man on the moon go up in smoke.
Gene Cernan was a bit of an anomaly among early Apollo astronauts in not being a test pilot. He was an attack aviation guy in the Navy, flying Skyhawks, when he found out he had been accepted into the third round of astronaut selectees. Cernan was generally viewed as a competent straight shooter who perhaps had the flaw of being a bit aggressive in his self-promotion. There was quite a bit of that among the Apollo astronauts, of course. After his time in NASA and almost de rigeuer collapse of his first marriage, Cernan became a bit of a sad creature, a sort of a caricature of his salad days version of himself, always Captain Cernan, always the former astronaut, not Geno or Gene anymore.
Still, they rarely make men like this anymore. We’re much too soft to produce such steely eyed missile men as those who flew to the moon in a delicate, lowest-cost government-run contraption. Engineering was done on slide rules back then, with no 3-D solid modeling and with less computing power in the entire NASA basement than one smart phone today. And yet they did it, and the engineers of back then were probably far, far better than those of today, man for man.
Gene Cernan was at least a nominal Catholic most of his life. Not sure if he died one. I pray for the repose of his soul.
Few know Cernans’s most dangerous mission was not Apollo 17, was not on Apollo at all, but was on Gemini 9A. During the mission he was to perform only America’s second spacewalk, the first since Ed White briefly flew outside Gemini 4. What most people did not know at that time, is that White barely made it back inside the spacecraft. His inflated pressure suit did not want to fit in the cramped capsule and he and commander Jim McDivitt struggled mightily to get it closed. As a result, White got quite severely overheated.
Well, White’s walk lasted perhaps 20 minutes, whereas Cernan’s was scheduled to last several hours. However, he also ran into problems with inadequate cooling in his spacesuit, especially when in the 250 degree temperatures on the sunny side of the world. Physical exertion, of which there was plenty, made him sweat profusely. Then, when the capsule went around the night side of the earth, all that moisture inside his suit froze. His visor was almost completely frosted over and Cernan was blind. He barely managed to make it back inside the ship, and probably had a heat stroke trying to get the hatch shut.
Cernan and Stafford repeated their two-man team on Apollo 10, when another accident could have killed them both. An incorrect setting on a guidance computer caused their Lunar Module to tumble out of control while practicing the landing maneuvers that Apollo 11 would perform on the first lunar landing. The telemetry showed the LM “Snoopy” doing three 360s before Stafford flipped the switch to go from backup abort guidance to the Apollo Guidance Computer. That fixed it.