(CBS/AP) – Former astronaut Gene Cernan, a Chicago-area native and the last man to walk on the moon, has died at age 82.
NASA announced that Cernan died Monday surrounded by his family. NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs confirmed the death but had no immediately details.
Cernan and Apollo 17 crewmate Harrison Schmitt spent three days on the moon in December 1972. As he followed Schmitt into the lunar lander for the return home, he offered a message of “peace and hope for all mankind.”
He also traced the initials of his 9-year-old daughter into the dust of the lunar surface.
“What he always emphasized was that we should be going back to the moon,” fellow astronaut Jim Lovell tells CBS 2.
Cernan also took part in a Gemini spaceflight in 1965 and in Apollo 10, the last mission before the one that put Neil Armstrong on the moon in July 1969.
Eugene A. Cernan was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 14, 1934. He graduated from Proviso Township High School in Maywood, Illinois.
Cernan is survived by his wife, Jan Nanna Cernan, his daughter and son-in-law, Tracy Cernan Woolie and Marion Woolie, step-daughters Kelly Nanna Taff and husband, Michael, and Danielle Nanna Ellis and nine grandchildren, NASA said in a news release.
His family released a statement following his passing. Part of it said, “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.”
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