Dean Acosta/Bob Jacobs
May 12, 2005
Gene Cernan Awarded Ambassador Of Exploration Honor
Apollo 17 Commander Eugene A. Cernan today received NASA's first Ambassador of Exploration Award during a special symposium at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. The award will remain on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
The Ambassador of Exploration Award was announced last July during the 35th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. It recognizes the sacrifices and dedication of the Apollo, Gemini and Mercury astronauts. Each astronaut or their surviving families will be presented a lunar sample, part of the 842 pounds of moon rocks and soil returned during the six lunar expeditions from 1969 to 1972. CBS journalist Walter Cronkite also is an honoree.
In a letter read during the presentation in Florida, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said, "The purpose of these awards is to recognize the tremendous contributions America’s first generation of astronauts have made to space exploration and to help inspire a new generation to carry the torch of exploration throughout the solar system. Your outstanding service on three space missions, including two Apollo voyages to the moon, and your challenge to America’s youth to 'take us back out there where we belong,' have demonstrated the essence of what our Ambassador of Exploration Awards are all about."
Cernan, a Captain in the U.S. Navy, left his mark on the history of exploration by flying three times in space, twice to the moon. He also holds the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last human to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
He was one of 14 astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963. He piloted the Gemini 9 mission with Commander Thomas P. Stafford on a three-day flight in June 1966. Cernan logged more than two hours outside the orbiting capsule.
In May 1969, he was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, the first comprehensive lunar-orbital qualification and verification test of the lunar lander. The mission confirmed the performance, stability, and reliability of the Apollo command, service and lunar modules. The mission included a descent to within eight nautical miles of the moon's surface.
Cernan concluded his historic space exploration career as commander of the last human mission to the moon in December 1972. Apollo 17 established several new records for human space flight, including the longest lunar landing flight (301 hours, 51 minutes); longest lunar surface extravehicular activities (22 hours, 6 minutes); largest lunar sample return (nearly 249 pounds); and longest time in lunar orbit (147 hours, 48 minutes).
Cernan and crewmate Harrison H. (Jack) Schmitt completed three highly successful excursions to the nearby craters and the Taurus-Littrow mountains, making the moon their home for more than three days. As he left the lunar surface, Cernan said, "America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. As we leave the moon and Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind."
On July 1, 1976, Cernan retired from the Navy after 20 years and ended his NASA career.
The Ambassador of Exploration Awards will remain the property of NASA. The recipients or their surviving families, in coordination with NASA, will select a museum or other educational institution where their awards will be publicly displayed in their name to help inspire a new generation of explorers.
"The men and women of NASA are engaged in the work that will enable our Nation to return humans to the moon, send robotic explorers and ultimately human pioneers to Mars, and explore other destinations in our solar system and beyond," Griffin added. "In taking on this challenge, we welcome the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those heroic astronauts who blazed our first pathway beyond Earth. Captain Cernan, we owe you a great debt of gratitude."
As an Ambassador of Exploration, the recipients will continue to help communicate the benefits and excitement of space exploration and work to inspire students to pursue careers in science, mathematics and engineering.
More information about the National Museum of Naval Aviation and Gene Cernan is available on the Internet at: http://naval.aviation.museum/intro.html
http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/cernan-ea.html For additional images of the award and the Administrator's letter on the Web, visit:
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