They call him the Space Cowboy – but 80-year-old Eugene Cernan is best known as the last man on the moon, writes Graham Walker.
And the Apollo 17 astronaut, who took the last small step on the lunar surface more than four decades ago, had words of wisdom and inspiration for Sheffield’s dreamers and pioneers.
In an exclusive chat with The Star - press the play button to watch our full chat - he said: “Dream the impossible. Then go out and make it happen. I went to the moon – what can’t you do?”
He was repeating a quote he makes in the new Mark Craig directed film about his amazing life, which was being screened at DocFest, called The Last Man On The Moon.
He has spent the last 42-years using his own moment of history to inspire others in all walks of life.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Graham Walker’s video chat at Sheffield DocFest with Last Man On The Moon Cpt Eugene Cernan.
He says: “Let me put it another way. Always shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land somewhere among the stars. That means go out and try. Don’t be afraid to try. So you can find out how good you are.”
Last Man On The Moon, a Mark Stewart Productions film, recounts the space race through Gene’s own story, recalling JFK’s presidential mandate to boldly go where no man had gone before.
Twelve men made the journey. Neil Armstrong was the first in 1969. Gene took that last step on December 14, 1972. He’s amazed nobody has been back since, but he’s confident that will happen soon – then on to Mars.
“I won’t be the last man on the moon, I will then be the last man of Apollo. They will have to re-label me,” he laughs.
He still has a pilot’s licence, but you’re as likely to find him wearing a stetson, riding a horse. He doesn’t spend all his time looking back, but when he looks up at the moon he can transport himself back to the lunar surface.
“I think the best description I have is that I sat on God’s front porch for three days of my life.
“You have to pinch yourself. When you step on the moon it’s the first time you’ve stepped on anything hard that isn’t Earth.
A former US Navy fighter pilot, handpicked by Nasa in 1966 despite not applying for the space programme, nor having gone to test pilot school, he said fate and a tunnel vision to achieve put him on the moon.
But he admits there were sacrifices, including his first marriage and spending time away from his daughter, Tracy – whose initials, TDC, he scratched with love in the lunar dust, to remain there undisturbed for all time, like his boot prints.
Last Man On The Moon will be shown again at Sheffield Showroom cinema, as part of a DocFest Best Of The Fest series of screenings, tomorrow, Thursday, June 12, at 8.15pm. Other best of screenings tomorrow: We Are Many, 2pm, The Battle For Orgreave, 8pm.
For full details about this and the rest of Sheffield DocFest visit www,sheffdocfest.com.