Sunday, July 09, 2017

The Last Man on the Moon (2014)

Everyone’s heard of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  They were the first two people to walk on the in that order.  You may not know the name Eugene Cernan.  Of the twelve people to have gone to the moon, he was the last person to leave.  He was the one to turn off the proverbial lights.  I hadn’t heard of him until this documentary showed up on Netflix.  I actually found it around the time of his death earlier this year.  I’m not sure why I held off on watching it until last night.

The documentary covers his life, starting with him joining the Navy when he was 22.   He was eventually selected for the Gemini program, which dealt with low Earth orbit.  He then joined the Apollo program, which was about getting to the moon.  He was on Apollo 10, which was a test run for Aldrin and Armstrong.  It wasn’t until Apollo 17 that Cernan got his chance to set foot on our only natural satellite.

I’ve always had a fascination with going into space.  It seems kind of depressing to think that there’s this entire universe out there and we haven’t sent someone past the lunar orbit.  Sure, we’ve sent probes to Mars.  We’ve even sent two machines out past our solar system.  I hate to think that we won’t actually send someone to another star within my lifetime.

I think that may have been why I put off watching the documentary.  Cernan was the last person to leave the moon.  When visiting a launch site, he regrets coming.  The site had been unused for decades and he didn’t want to remember the Apollo missions that way.

The documentary is partially clips like that, showing Cernan with friends or at a rodeo.  There are also historical clips, like the module going down towards the moon or coming back.  There are also interviews with Cernan, his family and from other people who worked in the space program.

Cernan admits that being an astronaut wasn’t great for his family life.  The training was intense and the trip to the moon was three days  each way.  It was difficult on his wife to have to sit there hoping everything went right when we were doing something that was entirely new.  There was always a sense that something catastrophic might happen.  In fact, catastrophic things did happen.  Equipment didn’t always work.  Human error was always a possibility.  Being an astronaut wasn’t that easy.  I imagine it still isn’t.

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