Yesterday the last man to walk on the Moon, Apollo 17 commander Capt. Eugene Cernan, passed away at age 82. Of the 24 men who visited the Moon and the 12 that walked on its surface Cernan leaves only six remaining men who actually walked on the Moon’s surface: Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Alan Bean (Apollo 12), Dave Scott (Apollo 15), John Young (Apollo 16), Charlie Duke (Apollo 16), and Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17). A three-time space traveler, Cernan was the pilot on Apollo 10 and had previously flown on a Gemini mission. He served as backup crew for Gemini 12, Apollo 7, and Apollo 14.
“Curiosity is the essence of human existence and exploration has been part of humankind for a long time. The exploration of space, like the exploration of life, if you will, is a risk. We’ve got to be willing to take it,” Cernan said. Cernan passed away on the annual day America observed the contributions of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he, too, recently recounted a dream. “I was just a young kid in America growing up with a dream. Today what’s most important to me is my desire to inspire the passion in the hearts and minds of future generations of young men and women to see their own impossible dreams become a reality.”
The best tribute to Cernan and his contemporaries is the continuing exploration and discovery missions of NASA, which will be the subject of several documentaries this year on PBS. In particular, August will be a big month for space aficionados.
The documentary The Farthest will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Voyager space program. As discussed extensively previously here at borg.com, the Voyager probes continue their role as the farthest humans have stretched their technology into space. The only objects to ever enter interstellar space are Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Voyager 2 was the first to launch forty years ago, on August 20, 1977.
As we discussed here last week, on August 21, 2017, we will see the first solar eclipse since 1979. PBS expects to show the documentary just hours after the eclipse, so the documentary, titled Solar Eclipse, is expected to include footage of the August 21 eclipse event.
In November, look forward to a sequel to last year’s A Year in Space featuring International Space Station astronaut Scott Kelly. Kelly spent a year in space on mission Expedition 45, and Beyond a Year in Space will include tests of Kelly and his twin brother Mark as NASA compares the impact of living in space so long on the human body.
Check out PBS at their NOVA Science website for updates throughout the year on other science programming and TV listings.