Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing The Last Man on the Moon directed by Mark Craig, a documentary about Eugene Cernan, Commander of Apollo 17, the final lunar landing. The best part? A Q&A with Capt. Eugene Cernan himself, who even at age of 82 continues to engage in outreach, sharing his experiences with millions around the world who can only dream of what he has done.
The director is to be congratulated, both for making a fine film and for his persistence in chasing his subject. Mark Craig spent three years trying to persuade Capt. Eugene Cernan that his story needed to be told. Finally the ‘Last Man on the Moon’ agreed, and the result is a film that immerses the viewer in that heady, exciting time when President Kennedy famously said: “We choose to go to the moon.”
We get a glimpse into both the personal and the professional life of the man who went to the moon twice – on Apollo 10 as well as Apollo 17. There is rare archival footage, excellent simulations and – equally interesting – interviews with fellow astronauts, NASA officials and family members.
There is both triumph and tragedy. Such an undertaking was never going to be without risks. The 1967 Apollo 1 disaster – a cabin fire that killed astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee – shook the small community of astronauts. One of the most moving sequences of the film is an interview with Martha, Roger Chaffee’s wife, who tears up as she remembers how she broke the news to their two children.
The Apollo Program went on to six successful missions. Twelve men walked on the moon, and Capt. Eugene Cernan’s were the last footprints on the lunar surface. In the film, he walks near the disused Launchpad, weeds growing out of the ground, phone hanging off the hook, and wonders how it has come to this. How 40 years have passed without any manned missions to the moon and beyond. The men who went to the moon were pioneers. They took enormous risks, they worked hard, often their family life suffered. All for a goal that could inspire all humanity, that could make us think: we did this. We humans walked on another world.
We owe it to these men and to our own future generations to get back out there, to the moon and Mars and beyond.