Spaceflight Insider

Review: The Last Man on the Moon

Eugene Cernan walks on the surface of the Moon during the final Apollo mission to our nearest celestial neighbor - Apollo 17. Photo Credit: Jack Schmitt / NASA

Eugene Cernan walks on the surface of the Moon during the final Apollo mission to our nearest celestial neighbor – Apollo 17. Photo Credit: Jack Schmitt / NASA

WINTER PARK, Fla. — Former Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan knows a lot about making an impression: the imprints left by his boots still denote his presence as one of only twelve human beings to set foot on the Moon. In 1972, Cernan, along with Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, strode across the surface of our nearest celestial neighbor’s surface on Apollo 17 – mankind’s final mission to the Moon in the 20th century, a fact highlighted in a recent film.

Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan photo credit Harrison "Jack" Schmitt / NASA posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Cernan as captured by Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 17 Harrison “Jack” Schmitt. Photo Credit: NASA

On Thursday, March 17, a film about Cernan’s exploits, The Last Man on the Moon, was screened for guests, officials, and members of the media. The screening was held at the Aloma Cinema Grill in Winter Park, Florida, at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

The documentary was reminiscent of the Discovery Channel series When We Left Earth regarding its portrayal of its depiction of space exploration. However, the vast majority of the film is based on Cernan’s life, something that was first provided for public consumption in his 1999 memoir of the same name.

The words “brutally honest” easily come to the fore when one is either reading the book or watching the movie. Cernan does not shy away from admitting that his career caused him to be away from home for extended periods of time, and although the word “selfish” is used in the film, it isn’t something that Cernan feels it describes how he has lived his post-NASA life. Rather, the three-time space flight veteran has said he has tried to give back to the world that made his experiences possible.

From his time as a naval aviator to his hair-raising experiences on Gemini 9 and Apollo 10, one thing is clear – Gene Cernan is a bad-ass!

The movie is, at times, awkward, clunky, and humbling; it is wholly, wonderfully human. So while Cernan is without-a-doubt the aforementioned bad-ass, he is also one who is capable of great humility, admitting his mistakes, as well as highlighting his successes (and giving thanks to those who made those achievements possible).

The Last Man on the Moon is, in short, a triumph. It is an honest, heartfelt spotlight on the man who flew jets, who crashed a helicopter into the Indian River, and who cast the last footprints in the lunar regolith.

Apollo 17 mission patch NASA image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Mission patch for Apollo 17. Image Credit: NASA

Thursday’s screening was sponsored by The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Orbital ATK, Million Air, and the University of Central Florida among others.

As noted, Cernan is no stranger to major video productions having either appeared or been featured in the following documentaries: When We Left Earth, In the Shadow of the MoonFrom the Earth to the Moon, the BBC’s The Sky at Night, as well as Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D. The Last Man on the Moon is a welcome addition to these films.

Cernan, Schmitt, and Command Module Pilot Ron Evans thundered off of the pad at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A at 11:33 p.m. EDT (05:33 GMT) on Dec. 7, 1972. What followed was a mission that lasted more than 12 days, three of which Cernan and Schmitt spent on the lunar surface conducting an array of experiments. The trio splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 19.

Four years after his journey to the Moon, Cernan retired from both NASA as well as the U.S. Navy.

Apollo 17 was the last mission to send crews to the lunar surface under the Apollo Program. Since that time, humanity has not ventured beyond low-Earth orbit.

Thursday’s screening was attended by another member of NASA’s elite astronaut corps, one who has his own place in space exploration history – the commander of the last space shuttle mission, STS-135, Chris Ferguson.

“I thought it was great! There’s a lot of footage there that I’d never seen before, and I didn’t know that much, personally, about Gene Cernan’s life,” Ferguson told SpaceFlight Insider. “Boy, I’ll tell you, it sure resonated with me, the personal insights; it’s very true, the stuff for the families has always been very challenging.”

The opinions expressed within this review are solely those of the author and do not, necessarily, represent those of SpaceFlight Insider

Video courtesy of SpaceFlight Insider


Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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