Gene Cernan the last man on the moon dies

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Gene Cernan, the last astronaut to step foot on the moon, has died at 82.

 The cause of Gene Cernan's death was not immediately known but what is clear is that he gave so much back to the Houston community and left a lasting legacy.

 “The thing about Gene Cernan was he was very passionate about where the United States should be as a space-faring nation. We should be number one, always number one,” said Clayton Anderson, a retired U.S. astronaut.

 Cernan was a space pioneer and the commander of Apollo 17, the last mission to the moon in 1972.

 Those who came after said he was one of the greats who paved the way.

 “When I flew on the shuttle, multiple times, I had a pretty good idea that things had been checked out and gone through and the history was there such that I knew I had a pretty good idea of coming home safely, but those guys were true pioneers and, astronauts like me, we stand on the shoulders of those guys who came first,” said Anderson.

 Cernan was also a captain in the U.S. Navy and made the history books of space exploration by flying three times in space -- twice to the moon. Cernan also piloted the Gemini 9 mission in 1966.

 “Gene…spent a lot of time in communities all across this nation, all across the world, inspiring young people, advocating why we need to be in space and why space exploration is so important. I think that's the role that will be with him forever,” said Dr. Bernard Harris, a retired U.S. astronaut.

 After he retired, Cernan worked with Space Center Houston to share the joys of space exploration education.

 “He published a great book. We had book signings and readings here with him, and actually, we just honored him last year in September so he was really beloved by the family here at Space Center Houston but [also] our community because he lived here in Houston,” said William Harris, the president & CEO of Space Center Houston.

 Cernan’s book is called "The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space."

 Cernan's family released a statement:

 "It is with very deep sadness that we share the loss of our beloved husband and father,” said Cernan’s family.  “Our family is heartbroken, of course, and we truly appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers. Gene, as he was known by so many, was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend. Even at the age of 82, Gene was passionate about sharing his desire to see the continued human exploration of space and encouraged our nation's leaders and young people to not let him remain the last man to walk on the Moon.”

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