Captain Eugene A. Cernan, USN (Ret.) Golden Eagle
Dear Golden Eagles,
It is my sad duty to inform you that Captain Eugene A. Cernan, USN (Ret.) made his last take off on 16 January 2017 surrounded by his family.
Gene was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 14 March 1934. He graduated from Proviso Township High School in Maywood, Illinois, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in 1956, achieving his father’s dream to get an education. He earned his commission through the Navy ROTC Program at Purdue.
Gene entered Flight Training and received his Navy Wings on 22 November 1957, achieving his childhood dream of becoming a pilot. His Fleet assignments were in Attack Squadrons 26 and 112.
He attended the Navy Post Graduate School in Monterey, California, where he earned a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1963. In October 1963, he was one of fourteen astronauts selected for NASA’s Apollo Program.
Gene’s first spaceflight was with Command Pilot Tom Stafford on the Gemini IX mission. During this three-day flight the spacecraft achieved a circular orbit of 161 statute miles. The crew used three different techniques to rendezvous with the previously launched Augmented Target Docking Adapter. Gene, as the second American to walk in space, logged two hours and ten minutes outside the spacecraft. The flight ended after 72 hours and 20 minutes with a perfect landing within one and one-half miles of the primary recovery ship, USS Wasp, and just three-eighths of a mile from the predetermined target.
Gene served as backup pilot for Gemini 12 and as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 7. His second space flight was Apollo 10, 18-26 May 1969, on which he served as Lunar Module Pilot. He flew with Mission Commander Tom Stafford and Command Module Pilot John Young. This flight confirmed the operations performance, stability, and reliability of the command/service module and lunar module configuration during trans-lunar coast, lunar orbit insertion, and lunar module separation and descent to within eight nautical miles of the lunar surface. In an interview for NASA’s oral histories in 2007, Gene said, “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 wouldn’t get lost, and all he had to do was land. Made it sort of easy for him.”
Gene was the backup Spacecraft Commander for Apollo 14 and then flew his third mission as Commander of Apollo 17, 6-19 December 1972. With him on the voyage of the command module “America” and the lunar module “Challenger” were Ronald Evans (Command Module Pilot) and Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt (Lunar Module Pilot). In maneuvering “Challenger” to a landing at Taurus-Littrow, located on the southeast edge of Mare Serenitatis, Cernan and Schmitt activated a base of operation from which they completed three highly successful excursions to the nearby craters and the Taurus mountains, making the Moon their home for over three days. This last mission to the moon established several new records for manned space flight that include: longest manned lunar landing flight activities (22 hours 6 minutes); largest lunar sample return (estimated at 249 pounds); and longest time in lunar orbit (147 hours 48 minutes). Apollo 17 ended with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean approximately 0.4 miles from the target point and 4.3 miles from the prime recovery ship USS Ticonderoga.
From September 1973 till 1 July 1976, Captain Cernan was the Special Assistant to the Program Manager of the Apollo spacecraft program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He assisted in the planning, development, and evaluation of the joint United States/Soviet Union Apollo-Soyuz mission, and he acted for the Program Manager as the senior United States negotiator in direct discussions with the USSR on the Apollo-Soyuz Test.
Gene retired from the Navy and terminated his association with NASA on 1 July 1976. He joined Coral Petroleum, Inc., of Houston, Texas, as Executive President-International, responsible to enhance Coral’s energy-related programs on a worldwide basis.
In September 1981, Gene started The Cernan Corporation to pursue management and consultant interests in the energy, aerospace, and other related industries. He also was active as co-anchorman on ABC Television’s presentation of the flight of the Space Shuttle.
In 1994 Gene became Chairman of the Board of Johnson Engineering Corporation, which provided NASA with Flight Crew Systems Development, design of crew stations for Space Shuttle, Spacelab, Space Station, Lunar base, and Mars outposts.
Captain Cernan was the second American to walk in space and had the privilege and distinction of being the last man to have left his footprints on the surface of the moon. He was one of the strongest supporters of America’s space program and wanted, very much, to see America return astronauts to the moon and beyond. His family said, “Even at the age of 82, Gene was passionate about sharing his desire to see continued human exploration of space and encouraged our nation’s leaders and young people to not let him remain the last man to walk on the Moon.”
Gene Cernan is an American Hero and a true gentleman who treated everyone he met with dignity and respect. He was a loved husband and father. He is survived by his wife Jan Nanna Cernan and daughters Teresa Cernan Woolie, Kelly Nanna Taff, and Danielle Nanna Ellis.
He will be missed,
Visitation will be on Monday, 23 January, from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM at: George Lewis & Sons Funeral Home, 1010 Bering Drive, Houston Texas.
Memorial Service will be Tuesday, 24 January, 2:30 PM, at: Saint Martin’s Episcopal Church, (Galleria Area), 717 Sage Road, Houston Texas.
Interment will be Wednesday, 25 January, at: Texas State Cemetery, 909 Navasota Street, Austin, Texas.