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The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space

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The basis of the 2014 award-winning feature-length documentary! A revealing and dramatic look at the inside of the American Space Program from one of its pioneers.

Eugene Cernan was a unique American who came of age as an astronaut during the most exciting and dangerous decade of spaceflight. His career spanned the entire Gemini and Apollo programs, from being the first person to spacewalk all the way around our world to the moment when he left man's last footprint on the Moon as commander of Apollo 17.

Between those two historic events lay more adventures than an ordinary person could imagine as Cernan repeatedly put his life, his family and everything he held dear on the altar of an obsessive desire. Written with New York Times bestselling author Don Davis, The Last Man on the Moon is the astronaut story never before told - about the fear, love and sacrifice demanded of the few men who dared to reach beyond the heavens for the biggest prize of all - the Moon.

384 pages, Paperback

First published March 22, 1999

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Eugene Cernan

7 books8 followers
Eugene Cernan was an American astronaut who traveled into space three times and was the last human to walk on the Moon since 1972. He was also a naval aviator, electrical engineer, aeronautical engineer, and fighter pilot.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 152 reviews
Profile Image for Heather Domin.
Author 4 books110 followers
September 3, 2013
4.5 stars. I did not expect to like this as much as I did! I thought it would be funny, maybe snarky, and it was both, but it was also poignant, authentic, and surprisingly honest. The BS level was blessedly low, the writing was conversational and amiable, and while he focused on the positive, no punches were pulled. (I don't think he and Buzz Aldrin will be BFFs any time soon.) The Gemini 9 spacewalk was painful to read - you don't get that level of description in documentaries. I kept reading passages to my husband to see his jaw drop. I usually don't expect to learn new facts from a memoir, but I learned a lot from this one.
Profile Image for Jerry Smith.
742 reviews13 followers
March 6, 2011
One of the most approachable, readable and entertaining astronaut books I have read. Cernan writes with a minimum of technical detail and as a result we get a close up view of the human side of his story and therefore of Apollo and Gemini itself.

To get an idea of the stories of the individual flights of these programs it really pays to read the bios and autobios of those that flew them and this is no exception. You don't get to hear about Apollo 17 very often although it was one of the most successful and interesting flights of them all - 3 days on the Lunar surface, driving around in a buggy etc. His story is particularly relevant as the last man to set foot on the Moon and so has historical significance.

Add to that Cernan's trip to the Moon in Apollo 10 which came within 60000 feet or so of the surface in the final dress rehearsal for the landing and he becomes one of a very select few to have been to the Moon twice (Lovell and Young being the others). He is also the most experienced Astro and therefore he has a lot to talk about and he describes it very well.

Particularly interesting his thoughts on crew rotations, relationship to others in the program, particularly Al Shepard and the feelings he had during each of his flights.
Profile Image for J.F. Duncan.
Author 12 books1 follower
May 29, 2018
Stumbled across the documentary of the same name last week, and then ordered the book, read it in three days and then re-watched the documentary... I know I'll come back to this one again. Excellent awe-inspiring read.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,456 reviews104 followers
August 27, 2020
With a career involving one of the earliest spacewalks as part of the Gemini programme as well as two missions to the moon during Apollo, including commanding the final moon mission that made him (to this date, anyway) the last man on the moon, Gene Cernan has plenty of material available to him for a fascinating memoir. He also, apparently, has an axe to grind with some of his fellow astronauts, particularly Buzz Aldrin whom he goes out of his way to disparage in ways I have never encountered from any other person involved in the space programme. On the whole, Cernan frequently comes across as an arrogant, abrasive, self-absorbed and generally unpleasant character - he sure didn't do himself any favours with all the personal animosity scattered through these pages. I also would have liked to read more about the Apollo 17 mission, which is squeezed into no more than a handful of pages at the very end.
Profile Image for Christopher.
169 reviews36 followers
April 21, 2017
The Last Man on the Moon is a unique entry among books about the Apollo program, in that Gene Cernan is one of only three men who flew to the moon twice (Jim Lovell and John Young are the others).

The book's biggest surprise was Cernan's low opinion of Buzz Aldrin. To my knowledge, Cernan is the only astronaut to portray Aldrin as overrated--and I'm convinced there's some professional animosity behind it:

Cernan had serious problems on his Gemini 9A spacewalk, and he was damn lucky he even got back in the capsule. In fact, I think Cernan was just as lucky he wasn't able to get his Manned Maneuvering Unit fully underway during that EVA, because I doubt he would have survived it. But he did survive, and for better or worse, Cernan's experience became a lesson that EVA training wasn't yet good enough. So, in the wake of Cernan's adventure, Buzz Aldrin decided to train hard for his EVA on Gemini 12. That EVA was a big success, and Aldrin's basic approach became the model for later EVA training. It appears Cernan took it personally, and I think it's here that Cernan's disdain for Aldrin was born.

I think Cernan even grandfathers his animosity, making it out like he never liked Aldrin from the moment they met. After reading Cernan's account of the Gemini spacewalk episode (and Aldrin's account, too, in Men from Earth--Aldrin's story is pretty benign, IIRC), I take everything Cernan says about Aldrin with a grain of salt. He doesn't like Buzz at all, that much is clear.

One of the book's drawbacks is that it takes a higher altitude view than it needs to. Cernan isn't the most eloquent of the early astronauts, although his coauthor, Don Davis, helps him read respectably. Cernan clearly loves his family, and appropriately, his long-suffering wife Barbara gets plenty of empathy for her trouble.

I went into the book really looking forward to reading Cernan describe his two moon flights, Apollo 10 and Apollo 17. Specifically, I wanted to feel what it was like to turn back from a lunar landing approach without consummating the landing (Apollo 10), and I wanted to imagine putting the EVA suit on and walking around in his moon boots for a third day (Apollo 17). If anything, Apollo 17 should have had the most coverage of any topic in the book. But his coverage is too light, his descriptions summarized rather than expansive. The feeling of 'being there' was fleeting, as was the feeling of traveling on the moon, and I never got a good feeling of the passage of hours and days on the moon.

(And I'll admit here that I almost feel like I cheated. Before reading Cernan's book, I had already read David Harland's magnificent book Exploring the Moon: The Apollo Expeditions, which has essentially minute-by-minute coverage of every lunar EVA. There is, in my opinion, no better resource for the moonwalks outside of the official NASA documents.)

We know Cernan spent three days on the moon, but I'm pretty sure it took me only about thirty minutes to read what he wrote about it. It left me disappointed and unsatisfied.

On the other hand, I thought Cernan's evaluation of his Apollo 17 moon walking partner, Harrison Schmitt, was above average. Schmitt was the only professional scientist to walk on the moon, but he didn't get his ride until it was obvious that Apollo 17 would be the last hurrah for the Apollo moon landings. Cernan makes it clear beforehand that most of his fellow pilot-astronauts had been against having a scientist in the LM pilot's station. And to his credit, Schmitt studied hard and certified himself as a pilot ahead of the mission, and he acquitted himself quite well, by all accounts. Cernan was satisfied that Schmitt earned his stripes and wasn't just along for the ride.

Cernan even adds the disappointment of leaving out Joe Engle, an X-15 veteran who was Cernan's original LM pilot, so we get a little of the bitter taste of knowing Engle was the best pilot from that era not to go to the moon.

My big takeaway from the book was learning about Cernan's approach to flying and managing his astronaut career. He always took chances, always got his foot in the door when it opened a crack, always pounced on opportunities given to him, always pushed the proverbial envelope--and he sometimes paid prices for going too far (like his boneheaded helicopter accident in 1971), but more often than not he came up a winner. After Apollo 10 was finished, he had only a distant chance to command a moon mission, knowing he'd have to get back in line again and wait--but a slot as commander was what he wanted, so he threw his hat in the ring again. And one by one, all the ducks lined up in a row for him. His gamble proved very lucky, indeed.

If I learned nothing else from this particular book, it's that if you want to be an astronaut, you have to always be on--you can't back your foot off for one second.

I was hoping for a better book than it really is, but it's still above average.
Profile Image for Joshua Bell.
38 reviews6 followers
March 30, 2023
An excellent telling of the space race. Such a unique perspective Gene gives the reader. He includes the science, the politics, and the drama. It’s a memoir that feels like a thriller. You will learn and feel so much through this book. It’s honest, just like Gene. I read it, but he tells his own story through the audiobook. That’s probably the way to go.
Profile Image for Jamie Collins.
1,427 reviews265 followers
March 11, 2018
3.5 stars. A nice memoir from astronaut Gene Cernan, who performed the world’s third spacewalk during Gemini 9, orbited the moon for Apollo 10, and was the last man to walk on the moon (so far) during Apollo 17.

He offers a frank thumbnail sketch of the early astronauts: the original Mercury 7, the “New Nine”, and his own group, “The Fourteen”, all of whom were his direct competition for mission slots. He speaks highly of most, but not all of his fellow astronauts; for instance, he is distinctly unimpressed with Buzz Aldrin.

Cernan's spacewalk for Gemini 9 did not go well; NASA had vastly underestimated the difficulty of working in space. By the time Aldrin walked during Gemini 12, many of the problems had been worked out and the workload had been reduced to something realistic, and evidently Aldrin was smug about his success.

Cernan covers his Gemini mission in greater detail than his Apollo missions. Specifically he's concerned with justifying (successfully, I think) his troubles during the spacewalk. For Apollo, he describes how he risked losing a moonwalk by holding out for a command position - which he got just in time for the last Apollo mission.

He speaks sympathetically about the burdens of his first wife, and the families of other astronauts, who endured their long absences and dangerous missions. When divorce became socially acceptable, and no longer meant the ruin of a career, the astronauts began divorcing in droves.

As usual with these memoirs, his account of the early space program is fascinating, while the personal sections feel a bit awkward.
Profile Image for Gail.
50 reviews
January 10, 2008
If you enjoyed "From Earth to the Moon" or even "Apollo 13", you'll like this book.

This is the autobiography of Eugene Cernan, the commander of the last Apollo lunar mission--of his entire life, but with special emphasis (understandably!) on the development of the American space program. He recounts his early life that led him through engineering and military training, describes how he became involved with the space program, and his efforts with (and sometimes against) it. He gives personalities to some well-known names (Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell) as well as many lesser-appreciated people. The descriptions of the scientific and technical aspects are detailed enough that you actually learn something, but not so much as to be incomprehensible. One of the things I really enjoyed was how he kept tying the Space Race to other world events--you rarely read about Vietnam and Apollo in the same book, even though the astronauts were military pilots themselves. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because the end seemed kind of hurried--the level of detail given to the early missions wasn't maintained evenly throughout, and I was just as intrigued by the end as I was at the beginning.
Profile Image for John Ess.
15 reviews1 follower
April 22, 2018
Eugene Cernan was the sort of person who really liked the trimmings that went along with being an astronaut in the glory days. The celebrity seemed to appeal to him and his wife and he really knew how to socialise, and, of course, he was the last man to walk on the moon - to date. Mercury 7 and Gemini was covered well from his perspective. An interesting read full of plenty of background details.
Profile Image for History Geek.
21 reviews1 follower
April 25, 2013
I've read a number of historical biographies, auto biographies, and narratives, but this was my first about the space program. What a great book, the authors had an exceptional tone where you really could grasp Captain Cernan's emotions in the moment he was describing. Amazingly, he also doesn't pull punches, which in our ultra politically correct climate is refreshing as you can really tell how he felt about certain people or things. It was a bit self righteous to refer to so many celebrities as friends and pals, but culturally at the time of Apollo these men truly were bigger then Elvis so it makes sense and fits the history of the events. I started this book on a Friday morning and enjoyed a wonderful weekend of reading, finishing it the following Tuesday evening.
Profile Image for Joleen.
71 reviews4 followers
July 20, 2009
I found this book simply fascinating. I generally have a hard time getting "hooked" on non-fiction even when I am interested in the topic. This book gives a great history of the early space program culminating in the historic moon landings of the Apollo program. Seeing this history through the eyes of one who lived through it, and riding along side him through his own struggles and triumphs provides the hook that is so often lacking in non-fiction. I felt my heart racing in anticipation during the count-downs to lift-off, especially after one of the missions was scrubbed more than once!
Profile Image for Kirsten.
727 reviews3 followers
November 2, 2022
Er war der erste Astronaut, der einen Weltraumspaziergang machte und der letzte, der auf dem Mond war. Zwischen diesen beiden Ereignissen liegt ein ungewöhnlicher Lebensweg, über den er in seinem Buch spricht.

Eugene Cernan wollte nie Astronaut werden, aber er wollte immer fliegen. Deshalb ging er nach dem College zur Navy, um dort seinen Traum zu verwirklichen. Dort stellte er sich so gut an, dass er ins Programm aufgenommen wurde um einen Mann auf den Mond zu schicken.

Vielleicht liegt es daran, dass Eugene Cernan mehr Abstand zu der Sache hat als Andere, deren Biografien ich zu dem Thema gelesen habe. Neben dem Rennen zwischen der USA und der UdSSR um den Mond erzählt er auch davon, wie das Bild einer heilen Welt der Astronauten unbedingt aufrecht erhalten wurde. Scheidungen sollte es nicht geben, aber es war den Astronauten nicht verboten, über die Stränge zu schlagen solange man das unter den Teppich kehren konnte.

Seine Frau war ähnlich offen über ihre Rolle. In Interviews sprach die offen darüber, was das Leben als Frau eines Astronauten für die bedeutete, auch wenn sie das immer mit einem Lächeln tat. Allerdings kann ich mir auch vorstellen, dass sie ihrem Mann gegenüber deutlicher war, denn Eugene Cernan hat mehr als einmal erwähnt, wie frustriert sie darüber war dass er seinen Beruf über die Familie stellte.

Durch diese Art zu erzählen ist "The last man on the moon" ein ungewöhnlicher, aber auch sehr ehrlicher Rückblick auf eine sehr interessante Zeit.
Profile Image for Nick Rolston.
99 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2019
Cernan's autobiography describing his career as an astronaut is inevitably biased, and it doesn't try to be impartial. I like that about the book, as it gives a glimpse into his character as a no-nonsense workaholic (he documents the struggle in his marriage that ultimately led to divorce) with no tolerance for people who don't play by the rules (Buzz Aldrin as one of them). His narration using simple analogies to better understand the "feel" of space was compelling, and I will always remember the nearly impossible nature of the spacewalk he conducted, the first man to experience the harsh conditions of outer space. Without being overly philosophical, Cernan clearly depicts how going to the moon changed him spiritually and shaped his view on life. He laments the title of the last man on the moon, and eagerly awaits the moment when he can pass on that dubious distinction to mark the next generation of exploration for mankind.
78 reviews
April 13, 2019
This book gave me so much pride in America’s ingenuity and passion for achievement and a longing for those times I grew up in. Yes not perfect but oh so much more moral and simple. It made me amazed and fascinated in something I only paid a small amount of attention to at the time. When I look at the moon now I feel so different -it’s a place. Highly recommended this book.
19 reviews
April 18, 2021
Zu lang! Hätte bestimmt 50 Seiten kürzer sein können. Der Flug von Apollo 17 wird erst auf den letzten 40 Seiten Thema. Maßeinheiten werden natürlich in Meilen und Inch angegeben. Gut, das erwartet man bei einem Buch aus dem US-amerikanischen Raum; ich hätte mir bei diesen wissenschaftlichen Themen trotzdem metrischen Einheiten gewünscht. Abgesehen davon, und vom triefenden Patriotismus, ist das Buch ganz ok. Kann man mal lesen. Das Bücher von Michael Collins, Andrew Chaikin oder Jim Lovell sind allerdings deutlich besser.
Profile Image for Joan.
2,515 reviews20 followers
October 15, 2018
Told by pioneering astronaut Eugene Cernan, this is the story of America’s Apollo program, designed to land man on the surface of the moon. Chronicling the successes, the failures, and the close calls, Cernan puts a personal spin on the story of America in space as he shares his personal thoughts: the fear, the love, the sacrifice demanded from the small cadre of men who aimed for the moon. Here, along with the facts and several pages of pictures, readers will find the feelings and the experience of space flight from the perspective of the last man to stand on the surface of the moon.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Melinda Elizabeth.
1,097 reviews11 followers
September 17, 2016
I will say this: I found it difficult to read past Eugene's idol-worshipping of Von Braun. After reading 'The Nazi's Next Door' - a few months before I picked up The Last Man On the Moon, there was a bit of a pause from me when I was reading this book, and Eugene's love for the scientist. I think it would have been in better taste to perhaps tone down the awe, as it comes across as incredibly strange to leave this sentiment in the book when there's been a lot said about Von Braun prior to this novel's publication.

Anyways, if you can get past this part of the book, Eugene is a very detailed narrator, providing some very candid information about the Space Race. He was upfront about the competitiveness, the poor behaviour of the astronauts and the stress the families were under when they were being put in front of the Time cameras.

He doesn't mince words, and when there's a point he wants to put across, he rams it home. Case in point: his disagreements with Buzz Aldrin.

It was an interesting read, and a great look into the prime time of the Apollo and Gemini missions.
Profile Image for C.W. Roe.
11 reviews
January 17, 2017
I read in the paper that Gene Cernan died yesterday. When I was a little kid, we had this assignment where we stood up in front of the class and talked about our favorite astronaut. Cernan was mine, and I was saddened to read of his passing.

If you have a long night drive ahead--preferably one with a sky full of stars and a big moon--I can't say enough good things about his book "The Last Man On The Moon." The audio version is far better than the paper, because he reads it. You can hear the pride and triumph of a Chicagoan who walked on the moon. (Twice!) You can get wrapped up in the optimism of a whole generation infused with a spirit of adventure when they thought about outer space, and all of the mysteries we were going to unlock there. It reminded me of how big a deal it was to watch shuttle launches when we were little kids--all the way up until we were older kids and Bud the Custodian rolled the A/V cart into our math class in 1986. We stopped doing math because the Challenger blew up on TV. My friend Alan was sitting in front of me, third seat from the front, two rows away from the windows. My other friend Val was sitting behind me. He had a calculator watch that also played Q-Bert. No games then though.

We all watched the replays of the fireball and knew something had changed.

What I loved most about this book the first, second, and third time I listened to it over the past few years was that despite his enthusiasm, you can also hear Cernan's very earthly regrets about what he gave up in the service of the space program and his country, how the later disasters influenced the cultural mindset, and how he recognized that soon there wouldn't be any humans left who had walked on the moon. We don't often get that much humanity or humility from our heroes, but he was full of both.

Read (or listen to) the book. Watch the 2014 documentary about him of the same name. Skip the inauguration negativity in D.C. on TV this week. Remember a time when children--even poor kids from Pilsen in Chicago--could dream about being shot into space faster than speeding bullets as opposed to having to worry about being on the receiving end of them here on the ground.

Consider how you can pivot that optimism into action, then go do it.

I know I will. Read this book.
Profile Image for Andrew Bulthaupt.
414 reviews12 followers
April 18, 2016
I listened to this book via Audible.

In my mind, the Apollo program is one of mankind's greatest achievements. In less than a decade we went from just getting a man into space to sending them to the moon and back - something we have not matched in the over-forty years since.

Getting to hear about the space program from the perspective of one of the astronauts was amazing. I have watched interviews and dramatizations such as From the Earth to the Moon, but hearing it in Gene's own words, with his perspective and bias, took things to a different level. It puts NASA in a personal light that you don't see often, and made the accomplishments that much more human.

Gene Cernan does a great job in outlining not only the facts but also including his own experiences and anecdotes that make this worth the read. I was drawn in and couldn't stop listening - especially because it was narrated by the astronaut himself. It was eye-opening to see the whole picture, such as the impact being an astronaut had on their personal lives or the problems that arose so often during missions.

This is a fantastic book if you're interested in the history of NASA and the Apollo program or just a fan of nonfiction in general. I heartily recommend you check it out if you ever look up at night and stare at the moon.
Profile Image for Steve Walker.
284 reviews114 followers
August 12, 2020
There are a number of astronaut autobiographies out now. And the time scale covered runs from the early days of the Mercury program all the way to the Space Shuttle. This is one of the top ten. Gene Cernan had a long and storied career with NASA, and as the title states, he was the last man to walk on the Moon. Cernan's book details the competition between the Astronauts and, tragically, how the deaths of certain ones effected the outcome of the crew selections for the later Gemini and early Apollo flights. This is a good book to read if you want an idea of what the Apollo days were all about.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Haley Hofmann.
21 reviews
January 10, 2022
I love books that tell these stories. They encourage me to look up, keep dreaming, and to reach for the stars.
Thanks, Gene.
Profile Image for Nikolas Kalar.
171 reviews1 follower
August 9, 2018
Reading Eugene Cernan's "The Last Man on the Moon" was an interesting and different experience for me. Most books I read can be broken down into one of two categories: read for the purposes of a vaguely scholarly autodidacticism, or read for the purposes of entertainment and personal growth. Cernan's memoir, however, falls somewhere in between. Not only am I immensely interested and entertained by space-science, space-travel, and the history of the space race in my own personal life, but I was also reading the book as a sort of research for a longstanding project.

Not only was I enjoying myself by simply going on the journey with Cernan, but I found myself approaching it with a more critical eye, searching for different pieces of information which would be useful to me, specific comments on times, places, peoples, ideas. I have legal pad absolutely filled to the brim with notes of Cernan's personal history, his point of view of the history of the program, and most importantly to me, the personal, emotional, mental epiphanies that occur when someone suddenly finds themselves living on another planet for three days.

Cernan's memoir is aided by his honesty. He isn't afraid to say what he thinks about certain people and their decisions, or, better yet, admit when his initials opinions of such things and people were wrong. He isn't afraid to take the blame when it is necessary, and as his time in the program progresses, he comes to realize that he can't be so quick to put the blame on others either. Such is one of the exciting things about "The Last Man on the Moon." Cernan doesn't write of himself or his adventures as though he were some otherworldly superhero, as people like me see him and all the other Astros. Cernan is a personal hero of mine, unique and almost untouchable, a "Chosen One" the likes of which the world hadn't seen before, and hasn't seen since. But he doesn't write of himself that way. He writes as though he were just an ordinary man, doing what he thinks to be right, and what he knows needs to be done. It is refreshing in its honesty. As well as in its use of humor. Cernan may have done the extraordinary, something accomplished by only eleven others, but he doesn't take himself terribly seriously. He isn't afraid to laugh at himself or the absurd bureaucracy of such a massive program

Cernan touches on the technical aspects admirably, without ever going into such extreme detail that it becomes boring. Rocket ships, lunar modules, and rovers are all incredible and massively interesting pieces of technology, but even such beautiful innovations can be boring if left to their own devices for an extended number of pages. Cernan and his co-author Don Davis realize early and often that it is not the machines that hold the most interest, but how they affect the humans controlling them.

Passages about the camaraderie of astronauts, pilots, administrators, and the relationship astronaut wives hold with their husbands, each other, and the press further prove this angle as successful. It isn't about the moon. It is about the humanity that said "we need to go there," and figured out a way to do so, dealing with even the direst of consequences, ranging from divorce, to end of friendships and careers, to deaths of loved ones. Though, perhaps this is also the one regard in which the book doesn't hold up as strong. Cernan beautifully explains and extrapolates on how his life was affected by being apart of the program, going to space and further, but there seems to be little information on why he wanted to be a part of such an elite group in this first place.

But, then again, I did start this book over two years ago, so maybe I've just forgotten some of the information. Such is the nature of a book you read looking for certain pieces of information, taking notes, looking at with a constantly critical fashion: it takes a long time to read. But, all for the better. It allows you more time with an extraordinary person, life, and time in the history of a universally unique species.
259 reviews
February 5, 2017
There's a lot of good stuff here; if you're interested in the space program, I recommend it.

I started to say "interested in Apollo", but this book has plenty of material on Gemini, and the US space program in general, from the time Cernan joined it in 1963. In fact, Gemini 9 and his tortured space walk might be the best-told part of the book. The accounts of Apollo 10, circling the moon, and 17, walking and driving there, are maybe less sharp, but certainly also worth it.

His early experiences as a pilot are also interesting. In general, it seemed that the earlier parts of the book, maybe the first half, were more sharply written and told. This perception may be based in part on having previously read more about the later Apollo material, I'm not sure. And possibly on my finding everyone more sympathetic when they're an up-and-comer, than when they're pretty high-status. Still, there may be some truth to that impression about the writing.

Cernan's personal values are pretty different from mine, so when he gets into moments of religion, I get disconnected pretty fast. But it really doesn't happen very often. Or this - I don't know much about Günter Wendt, the colleague of Von Braun who led the white room at the top of the gantry. But whatever his particular degree of Nazism was, but it's painful when Cernan jokes about him as the "fuhrer" of the launch pad. (And doesn't provide any hindsight perspective that this may not be funny, about a genuine former Nazi. The joke was apparently started by John Glenn. )

Pardon me, I don't think I'm expressing this well. I'm not asking Cernan to be ideal, or to be just like me -- let me know if I sound that way. I'm just trying to relate the experience of the book. And I'm committing the fallacy of dwelling on the minor negatives, when overall I was pleased to read the book.
260 reviews2 followers
April 30, 2018
I’ve enjoyed several books by former astronauts, including books by John Glenn, Clayton Anderson, Jim Lovell, John Kelly, and Jerry Linengar. Some books have been more impressive than others, and some astronauts have been more impressive…and some (many) seem incredibly arrogant. At the beginning I thought Eugene Cernan would fall into the better category but by the end it’s clear the fame got to his head a bit. Regardless, his descriptions of walking on the moon, surrounded by tall mountains and foreign boulders in a land that’s never been explored are simply incredible. I know each man (and now, also each woman) selected to be an astronaut goes through some crazy things and has an incredible amount of luck, health, and skill to get selected to be an astronaut, get selected for a mission, and successfully complete a mission, and I find it all pretty incredible (and it kinda makes me jealous!).

One other thing he ended up talking about quite a bit was the affect all the fame of being an astronaut had on his wife. In the early days, it was not okay to divorce and it was expected that the wives were upstanding and supportive and did NASA’s bidding, even though their husbands were hardly around because of all the training and appearances they were supposed to make.

I’d give this an 8 out of 10 (I’d give it higher except for I think he is a bit of an “ass-tronaut” as he refers to himself at one point in the book) and a 4.5 of 5 for readability (although if you aren’t a bit of space nerd I’m sure you wouldn’t be as fascinated as I am by this book).


For more of this review, and for more reviews, check out: https://bedroopedbookworms.wordpress....
Profile Image for Tara van Beurden.
384 reviews13 followers
December 24, 2020
Eugene Cernan was the last man to walk on the Moon, a title he still holds almost 50 years after the event took place. His journey to achieve the title was an arduous one, including a truly terrifying spacewalk in the Gemini missions, a helicopter accident that could have killed him and a leg injury months before his trip to the Moon as commander of Apollo 17. A documentary of the same name as this book was produced and released a few years ago. Cernan's story is an interesting one, and his is probably one of the most frank astronaut biographies I've come across. He clearly disliked/s Buzz Aldrin, acknowledges the flaws in his first marriage and gives credit to his first wife Barbara who weathered his astronaut career, and admits to a few things NASA probably wish they’d known about at the time. I wanted to enjoy this biography more than I did - objectively its well told and interesting, but the tiny font in my copy made it feel infinitely longer than it was, and just something about the writing style made it feel like it dragged. I did appreciate the fact that Cernan seemed to appreciate that what he was doing, and being the last, was significant and worth noting in the annals of history. Similarly, his comments about inspiring the next generation of astronauts was nice to read - its a role I think is as important as making the trip in the first place. Here's to hoping that in a few short years, Cernan's long held title as the last man on the Moon is taken from him.
67 reviews
January 26, 2022
4.5 stars. Autobiography of Eugene Cernan, the third man to walk in space and the last to walk on the moon. Overall a compelling read with particularly detailed coverage of the early days in space exploration - the Mercury and Gemini programs. Cernan does well in immersing the reader in the technology, culture and politics of the time including the space race with the Soviets. The conquering of space with less computing power than contained in a modern phone really was a stupendous achievement and Kennedy's vision and audacity to set such a challenge in 1961 does make you wish that today's political mantras could extend beyond jobs, growth and the occasional culture war. If I was to level one criticism it would be that Cernan is not exactly impartial when discussing colleagues and events, with some recollections clearly benefitting from a degree of hindsight bias - but to be fair there would be few autobiographies to which that charge couldn't be levelled.
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292 reviews4 followers
May 9, 2017
My wife got me this book soon after it came out. I started it a couple times but never continued. I don't know why as I've always been fascniated by the original NASA explorations. Anyway, I just read it and really enjoyed it. An excellent history of NASA, the space program and how he started out and eventually got into the program. Yes, he sometimes shows his ego but, man, all astronauts better have an ego and think they are great. Yet, he's humble at times and it's a nice balance. Props to him also for continually mentioning how brave his wife was during these times. I had no idea he had just passed away either, something must have put it in my brain as I picked it back up to read. Overall, a very good book if you want some history into NASA, the space program and an astronaut in the 60's and 70's.
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