Gemini and Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan, who was the last man to walk on the Moon as the Commander of Apollo 17, was laid to rest today with full military honors at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin following his death on January 16. Cernan began his career as a Naval Aviator before becoming an astronaut and flying on Gemini 9A and Apollo 10 and 17. Cernan dedicated his life not only to to his career as an astronaut and later businessman, but also to inspiring others to follow in his footsteps. During an interview with KXAN News in 2015, Cernan said the following:
I was born in 1934, in WWII and there were no astronauts. Going to the moon was Buck Rogers. All I wanted to do was fly airplanes off of aircraft carriers. Those unsung heroes in WWII were making flying machines do the impossible. I wanted to do that.
I had a chance to fly three times, walked in space when we knew nothing about what we were doing – moon a couple of times. And I keep wondering, ‘Was that me? Did I dream it? Did it really happen?’
The next young boy and girl who’re going to take us back to the moon and on to Mars are alive and well today. We’ve got to re-inspire their passion to do what they didn’t think they could do. We’ve got to re-inspire them about going where humans have never gone before, because the dreamers of today are the doers of tomorrow.
Godspeed, Gene. Our country, indeed the whole world, need both dreamers and doers like yourself, perhaps now more than ever.