We’re now living well into a new century of a new millennium, so it really couldn’t be helped learning how many important and significant personages who have shaped the latter part of the past century have all been leaving us for whatever world comes next. Certainly a lot have been affected by the “murderous” year of 2016 with all those famous celebrities passing on especially in the closing months of it. But now there come the sad tidings of another death, this time in the realm of science, particularly space exploration. Former NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo lunar mission, 17, and also the last man to set foot on and walk on the moon, has died at the age of 82.

A dwindling club

On Monday January 16, close to a month after incoming President Donald Trump dropped hints at his interest of seeing a renewed period of NASA lunar exploration, Cernan died of ongoing health issues, according to a family statement that was publicized by spokesman Bob Jacobs. I should be remembered that Apollo 17’s lunar module landed on the moon in December 14 of 1972, and Cernan was the last one down the LM, entitling him as the last of 12 astronauts to walk upon the surface of the moon. He also earned a great deal of public affection towards the end of his moonwalk, when he bend down and traced the initials of his daughter and only child before climbing back in the LM for the return trip.

As of his passing only six of these brave and celebrated remain alive today.

Cernan would recall his time spent on the moon in the middle of an oral history he was narrating back in 2007. He spoke of his reluctance to leave even, describing the final lunar mission as “perhaps the brightest moment of my life…It’s like you would want to freeze that moment and take it home with you.

But you can’t.” It was this feeling that spurred him to spend the next decades lobbying for the government to fun NASA for a new moon mission, only to resign himself to the thought that the next astronauts to leave footsteps on the lunar surface – his own have remained unchanged since – would come after his time.

Talk of return

The passing of Gene Cernan has for a time once again reignited discussion of a renewed drive for NASA, or even private space agencies to return man to the moon. In fact, some quarters are criticizing the current agenda of SpaceX founder Elon Musk who is focusing on a Mars mission instead. A Martian colony that Musk is advocating has been seen as a jumping the gun of sorts, and proponents are calling for the establishment of a manned lunar outpost first.