Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Last Man on the Moon

Everybody knows who Neil Armstrong is, since he is rightly renowned worldwide and for all time as the first man to set foot on the Moon. Infinitely less well known is Gene Cernan, who, as of September 1st, 2011, is still the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon. Not as impressive as being the first? I suppose. And if (when?) we ever do go back to the moon, he'll no longer be notable as the last and his name will become even less well known as he joins the ranks as such other forgotten astronauts as David Scott, Alan Bean, and Harrison Schmitt (among others) as just some guy who walked on the moon.

But you know what? How many times have you walked on the damn moon? I didn't think so.

First, last, second, or even tenth person to walk on the moon is still one more time than any of us will be able to do it, so no matter the order, that's damn cool. In fact, there is literally nothing more cool in the world than walking on another one. And Gene Cernan was the guy who did it most recently, so I think that makes him a strong contender for coolest guy worldwide.

But forget about the order or even whether or not he walked on the moon at all, since The Last Man on the Moon, the autobiography of Astronaut Eugene, is about life as an astronaut in general. I can't say if this is the best book I've ever read on life as an astronaut since I've read several that have been very good, but this one certainly is one of the most exciting, heartfelt, and well written. Cernan gives an overview of his entire life, paying particular attention to what it was like to go through the astronaut selection process, train to be a pilot for Gemini and Apollo, his horrific space walk in 1966, and his eventual voyage to the moon in 1972.

The events in this book, and the exploits Cernan went through (both as an astronaut and as a man trying to raise a family) are exciting, entertaining stuff, and the book is wonderfully written, either because of Cernan's talents or because of the help of Don Davis. We have heard Cernan's words spoken on the moon and in various other missions as an astronaut, so we know he was an eloquent man with a gift for words, but the book so so polished and so well put together, I'm sure a lot of credit goes to his collaborator, although how much nobody could ever say for certain.

Anyway, it's a good book that's worth reading if you want to learn more about life as an astronaut, or what it felt like to walk on the moon and then come home to the realization you'd never go back there again. Check it out.

Eugene Cernan: The Last Man on the Moon


Naomi said...

I agree that all members of this exclusive group have a certain cool factor that will never be attained by the majority of the folks alive today.

I don't usually read autobiographies. However, you've piqued my interest in this book.

Mugato said...

I ended up reading Packing For Mars and it was excellent, so I'll definitely check this one out.