One of my favorite trivia questions in the space realm is – do you know what the first and the last man to walk on the moon had in common? (Other than the obvious of course!)
Astronaut Eugene Cernan flew on 3 space mission (Gemini 9, Apollo 10 & Apollo 17) and was the last person to ever set foot on the moon.
So when by total happenstance I met Astronaut Eugene Cernan on an airplane flight I was beyond excited! As the plane was unloading I couldn’t help but walk up to him and say (and I am pretty sure it was pretty close to exactly this!) “Hello Mr. Cernan… I am terribly sorry to trouble you but as a huge space geek, fellow Boilermaker and as someone who loved your book, I just had to shake your hand. I hope you don’t mind, Sir.” Boy, am I glad he was gracious because he could’ve thought I was nuts! Not only was he gracious… he proceeded to walk with me and talk with me all the way from the gate to baggage claim! I was over the moon! (Sorry – really couldn’t resist the pun there!) Gene was the first moonwalker I’d ever had the honor of meeting. We talked about the things one would usually talk about.. the moon, Purdue… ya know… just casual conversation. Unforgettable!
I was fortunate enough to see Gene again about a year ago when he first brought the movie “Last Man On The Moon” to DC. I’m quite certain there are more stories for him to tell then I may ever have the pleasure of getting to hear but I am happy to see if I can hear them all!
If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie – I strongly urge you to do so! It’s a very human tale and it’s an incredible inspiration!
Thank you Gene for being a courageous explorer and stepping foot on the moon! Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration and share the story of space, following your dreams and the importance of exploration! Happy National Astronaut Day!