Last man to walk on the moon died at 82
International desk: Astronaut Gene Cernan traced his only child's initials in the dust of the lunar surface. Then he climbed into the lunar module for the ride home, becoming the last person to walk on the moon.
Cernan died Monday at age 82 at a Houston hospital following ongoing heath issues.
It was a moment that defined the Apollo 17 commander in both the public eye and his own.
"Even at the age of 82, Gene was passionate about sharing his desire to see the 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," his family wrote in a statement released by NASA.
On Dec. 14, 1972, Cernan became the last of only a dozen men to walk on the moon.
Cernan died less than six weeks after another American space hero, John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Their flights weren't the first or last of the Mercury and Apollo eras. Yet to the public they were the bookends of America's space age glory.
Cernan guided the lander, named Challenger, into a lunar valley called Taurus-Littrow, with Harrison "Jack" Schmitt at his side on Dec. 11, 1972. He recalled the silence after the lunar lander's engine shut down.
Completing their third moon walk on Dec. 14, Schmitt returned to the lunar module and was followed by Cernan.