In December 1972 NASA Astronaut Gene Cernan left his footprints and his daughter Tracy’s initials in the lunar dust. Decades later he is now able to share his journey with us. A story full of love, accomplishment, and heartbreak, Cernan gives us The Last Man on the Moon.
Cernan’s story is a unique one; a former Navy captain, his journey towards becoming a NASA astronaut started with a simple phone call. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set the bar high for U.S. space exploration, putting pressure on the space program to be the first country to land on the moon. This public assignment given to NASA resulted in an increased demand for anyone willing to participate in the program, which lead to more opportunities for people like Gene to join. Getting his foot in the door was the easy part, he realizes in hindsight. The intense training that each of the aspiring young men endured, including desert survival, water survival, and jungle survival just to name a few, was the hard part.
“The best thing to come from that experience, was the strong bonds I made with the other men.”- Gene Cernan
His close friendships with his co-workers also made the tough times almost unbearable. One being the emotional Apollo 1 fire of 1967, when his good friend Roger Chaffee and two other men died as a result of a flash cabin fire, shaking up Cernan’s world. At the time, he was married with a young daughter, and the thought of never seeing his family again was a terrible thought to bare. However, when he was selected to be a part of the Apollo 17 crew, NASA’s last mission to the moon, Cernan couldn’t resist.
Cernan spent three days on the moon. Right before he was about to leave, and knowing that man may not be back on the moon again for years, if any, he left his footprints and wrote his daughter’s initials in the lunar dust. He describes this moment with pride and intimacy.
The Last Man on the Moon isn’t your usual “documentary-style” film, thanks to the work of director Mark Craig. Craig illustrates the perfect balance between Cernan’s personal and work life. He switches from Gene in the present day to archival footage of his days at NASA, which, photographically, feels like a mental attempt to relive his experience. The Last Man on the Moon is humbling, poignant, hard-hitting, and emotionally charged, with visual beautiful shots.
This documentary is an emotional and personal film for Gene Cernan which is one of the reasons why it took until now, decades since his return to earth, to share his story. Lightheartedly joking that he can’t live forever, he wants to share his knowledge now because he feels he needs to inspire the younger generation.
“I walked on the moon,”what can’t you do?” Gene Cernan