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14 December 1972 05:40:56 UTC

US astronaut Gene Cernan returned to the Apollo 17 Lunar Excursion Module, becoming "the last man on the Moon" for forty-five years, so far. (as reported in my Space History newsletter)

It seems like there should be something done to honor the man who had that dubious title foisted upon him: I'm sure he didn't expect that to be an accurate description when he passed away on 16 January this past year.

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On that particular date, a cargo spacecraft called the S.S. Gene Cernan was in orbit after completing a supply mission to the International Space Station. The Cygnus-class spacecraft was built by Orbital ATK; launched from Wallops Island on November 12, 2017; docked with the ISS carrying 3338 kg of cargo; and left the ISS on December 6 with 2900 kg of trash. It then spent nearly two weeks deploying cubesats and performing an experiment called SAFFIRE which lit the largest intentional fire in space. The vessel burned up in the atmosphere over New Zealand on December 18.

Cernan was a critic of the Commercial Resupply Services program for the ISS, so it is somewhat ironic that such a spacecraft was named after him.

I haven't found him anywhere else in the news on that date; he died earlier in the year on January 16. Keep in mind that a 45th anniversary is not as notable as a round number such as the 50th.

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  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if the timing of the mission was planned such that the S.S. Gene Cernan would be in space on the 14 December anniversary, or if it was just coincidence. I suspect we're going to see that "round number" 50th anniversary without more "boots on the ground" on the Moon, which is a disappointment, in and of itself... $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2021 at 1:46

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