NASA has continued its exploration of the moon since Apollo 17, but it has been over 40 years since one of its astronauts stepped on the surface. Gene Cernan was the second American to walk in space and the last set foot on the moon during that mission. Today, the retired US Navy captain died at age 82. During his time as an astronaut, Cernan logged over 500 hours in space and he spent more than 73 of those on the surface of the moon.
Captain Cernan's NASA career began in 1963 and he made his first trip to space as part of the three-day Gemini IX mission in 1966. He went on to serve as the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 10 mission in 1969 before taking the role of spacecraft commander for Apollo 17 in December 1972. Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the moon for the United States. Cernan retired from the US Navy after a 20-year career in 1976 and left NASA at the same time.