Today, Mark Stewart Productions releases the powerful, personal documentary “The Last Man on the Moon”. When Captain Eugene Cernan became the last man to step off of the surface of the moon in December 1972, he left his footprints and his daughter’s initials in the lunar dust. Only now is he ready to share his epic and deeply personal story of fulfillment, love and loss. Five years in the making, this wonderful documentary unveils a wealth of rare archival footage and takes Cernan back to the launch pad at Cape Kennedy (now NASA Kennedy Space Center), to the Arlington National Cemetery, and to his Texas ranch where he tries to find respite from a past that refuses to let him go.
Wednesday night, during the DC premiere at Landmark E Street Theatre in our Nation’s Capital, I had the honor of talking to to man himself. Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you – the interview with Captain Eugene Cernan, Apollo Legend – Naval Aviator – America’s Finest
I’m doing great. I am way in over my head right now but I can’t believe the response to this film is gratifying and the intent of the film basically its not about me, its about the story of a kid from Any town USA with a dream who ended up walking on the Moon. How’s that?
Absolutely, it’s definitely good! How did you get involved with the Apollo program?
Well, I’m a Naval Aviator and I didn’t apply. Way back when Alan Shepard and John Glenn days, NASA came out and requested applications for new astronauts. I didn’t apply because I didn’t meet all the requirements. I didn’t have enough jet time. I didn’t go to test pilot school. And wouldn’t you know certain thereafter, The Navy came and said that we want to recommend you for NASA and my golly, part of the selection process was going to Houston and I was in a room of 400 of the finest aviators that America has to offer and me. I kept wondering “Why me, why am I here?” That’s what I try and tell kids. Never count yourself out. Being an underdog is not bad. I ended up pretty lucky fate. F-A-T-E played a big role of how I got to this chair right now.
One of the last moments I saw of your mission was that you left your daughter’s initials on the lunar surface. How did that come about?
It’s just an afterthought. I had parked the lunar rover behind the lunar lander because the ground can automatically control the television camera, so they can see a picture. I was just walking away and I say. I don’t know what possessed me. Something said write her initials. People always ask me how long with they be there. As long as the flag will be there, forever. However long forever is and I don’t know how long that may be. They’ll be there until somebody else comes back, takes a look at them and erases them or something.
Speaking of which, its been over forty years since we been to the Moon, why haven’t we been back?
I ask that question all the time. Forty-three years as a matter of fact last December and it’s really discouraging. Think about this, over four decades ago, this country put a human being on the moon and today we cant even get our own space station without paying the Russians $70 million. Now to me, that’s unacceptable. That ought to be unacceptable to every American that’s walking the streets and the cities of this country. Unacceptable but here we are. Fortunately, we got some vision with a little vision and we’re building some hardware that’s gonna take us back out there somewhere. Undefined yet but we’ll have the transportation for when the time comes.
How did you when they wanted to do a documentary about you? What was your initial reaction?
I figured Mark Craig the director had read my book and became passionate because my book is personal. It takes you everywhere I’ve been. It takes you for a walk in space. I went to the moon a couple of times, standing on the Moon with me. The movie is different. It’s other people talking about my life. He said we got to tell young kids too, twenty years down the line of what its like and the challenges you faced and the passion I had to become a Naval Aviator. That’s where it all started.
It was like he was trying to sell me a piece of swampland in the desert or something (we both laugh) it took him about two years and he found Mark Stewart. He read the book and loved it. They talked me into letting them go ahead with the filming. I was still reticent. I was still “Who’s gonna care about me?”
One day, a pretty good friend who knows a lot about the movie business. I told him a little about it, you know a young kid Chicago born and he said “Gene, that young kid could have been anybody. Anybody, last decade, last century or anybody in the decades to come. It’s not about you – it’s the story.” He jumped on it and he said, “It’s the story that you got to support so it’s available to young kids.” So far, the response from people all over the country where we had film festivals and so forth has heard that message. I want the young kids. I want your kid, their grandkids, your grandkids to get that story. That’s what this movie is all about.
One last question: You spent three days on the Moon. If you had one more day to spend on the Moon, what would you do?
Oh, you know when you come back, you never wanted to leave but we had to leave because we didn’t have enough consumables, oxygen or whatever. I think I’ve made a list but I don’t remember exactly of all those things that I wished I would’ve. You know when you been somewhere, I wished I would’ve. I would’ve taken a picture. I would’ve done this. A lot of things I would’ve said. We had the lunar rover that we had a lot of access to go on a lot of places.
You know when I started up the ladder, I looked down at those last footprints, I know that I wasn’t coming this way again. Somebody would and somebody will. You can take the word “Last” out of “Last Man on the Moon” because we are going back because there are kids out there. If we give them the opportunity and we give them the inspiration that I hope this movie provides, they’re the ones that’s going to take us not only back to the Moon. You’re young enough young man to see us going to Mars.
Thank you, Gene for inspiring all of us to reach out and touch the stars including this young man.
In our next part of The Last Man on the Moon interviews, we will talk to the movie’s director Mark Craig. Check out this powerful documentary “The Last Man on the Moon” in select theaters and VIDEO ON DEMAND TODAY!
Until next time – AD ASTRA