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The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space Paperback – July 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

That "Geno" Cernan was commander of Apollo 17, the final manned moon mission, was a fitting conclusion to a flying career that included two previous stints in space (Gemini 9 and Apollo 10). His frank, earthy memoir of his years at NASA adds another entertaining, informative volume to the burgeoning shelf of books illuminating the inner workings of the space program and the people who made it happen. Coauthor Don Davis, a veteran journalist, helps Cernan craft a colloquial prose style that nicely captures the competitive, macho personality that seemed virtually mandatory for astronauts in the 1960s and '70s. Cernan candidly depicts the reckless streak that twice led to needless injuries jeopardizing his spot on a mission. He also acknowledges the stresses endured by his ex-spouse Barbara as she struggled to be the perfect astronaut wife--cheerful and uncomplaining for the cameras while he experienced all the fun and adventure of the job. And it sure was fun, as becomes clear in the exciting descriptions of his spacewalk from Gemini 9 and stroll around the moon from Apollo 17. Detailed accounts of each flight, including technical problems and personal tensions (particularly with Apollo 17 teammate Jack Schmitt, distrusted because he was a scientist, not a test pilot), remind readers that the space program is a human endeavor, with inevitable failures that make the triumphs that much sweeter. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Gemini and Apollo astronaut Cernan, helped by Davis (A Father's Rage, etc.), takes readers with him on one great space adventure after anotherAincluding Gemini 9's "Spacewalk from Hell," Apollo 1's fire, Snoopy's hair-raising swoop by the lunar surface. Readers experience the agony of life-or-death decision making in the Apollo 13 control room, exult with Cernan and geologist Jack Schmitt throughout the mission of Apollo 17 and meet legendary characters of the astronaut corps and the technical and political leaders who shared their glory. Cernan reveals the risk-taking, competitive personality and oversized self-confidence that drove his success as a test pilot and astronaut. He also acknowledges his failings as a husband to his first wife, Barbara, whom he presents as a quiet, strong homefront heroine who always found the right words in public despite her private difficulties. However, careful readers may see more of Cernan than he intended to display. His admiration and friendship may justify letting Wernher von Braun and Spiro Agnew off the hook for what many consider their political and personal misdeeds, but his unforgiving view of Buzz Aldrin seems to stem from personal animus. Why must the last man on the moon demean the second? ("[Aldrin] came flapping into my office at the Manned Spacecraft Center one day like an angry stork..."). Despite the bad taste of Cernan's words about Aldrin, this is an exciting, insider's take on what it was like to become one of the first humans in space. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Jane Dystel. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (July 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312263511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312263515
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (183 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Christoph Stappert on April 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Selected with the third group of American astronauts in 1963, Eugene Cernan "walked" in space as the pilot of Gemini 9, went around the Moon on Apollo 10, then returned there as the Commander of Apollo 17, the last lunar landing mission. A successful and interesting career even for astronaut standards. His autobiography, "The Last Man on the Moon", offers a personal account of those glory days of space exploration.
Throughout the book, Cernan portrays himself as a competitive workaholic, and it shows: there are a few introductory chapters on Gene's childhood and career as a naval aviator, and a brief afterthought on life after NASA, but the bulk of "Last Man" is about the space program, the space program, and the space program. Training and mission planning, the mechanics of crew selection, descriptions of his colleagues and anecdotes about their extracurricular activities, it's all there. The flights themselves are recounted in vivid detail, including a nauseatingly dangerous EVA on Gemini 9 and geology trips through the lunar valley of Taurus-Littrow. Overall, as Cernan later reflects, it feels "as if I was getting off one fast-moving express train only to immediately board another", and describes well the hectic and busy pace of the Moon race.
Underlying it all, and well in evidence, is the aggressive "right stuff" attitude usually found with this elite of pilots. It's easy to mistake Gene's self-confidence for arrogance, but he also displays plenty of humour and self-ironic jabs. Cernan was one of the more personable and gregarious astronauts, who clearly enjoyed the social perks that came with the job, and it's this mixture of cocky determination and laid-back charm that make his autobiography a gripping read.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robbie Lewis on January 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I loved the book! I have had it for ten months and must have read it five times. I was just a young Australian schoolboy when Geno went around the moon with Apollo 10 and yet I remember that flight, and especially the one that followed, as if it was yesterday. Like others, I love the book's personal touch. Gone is the techno fuzz typical of so many books on the space age. Geno tells it like it was: pride, glory, pain, sadness, fun, love, tragedy. The only disappointment - and a small one - is that I wanted to know more. More about him, more about his family, more about 1972-1998, a period that passes in the book like a stolen second. Americans should feel proud of what Geno and his colleagues did. The moon landing (along with the U.S.'s involvement in World War II) was perhaps America's greatest hour. Geno I hope you read this, I hope life gives us an opportunity to meet Down-under sometime.
Who needs Buzz Lightyear for a hero. I had Gene Cernan.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By kone TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 16, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eugene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon. When he stepped back into his spacecraft, Apollo 17, in December of 1972, another human would not venture to the moon, much less feel its surface for the remainder of the 20th century, and most likely well into the 21st century.

Cernan tells the story of how he became an astronaut, his three fights into space, and finally his culminating achievement - his 3-day stay on the surface of the moon. It is an intriguing story, which gives insights into the many perils of space exploration, the stringent qualifications and training of the astronauts, the tremendous personal and professional sacrifices made, and finally the unique toughts and feelings of one who has actually cavorted and explored the moon's alien surface. As an amateur sky-watcher, I already had a keen interest in space travel and moon exploration, but I think anyone with even a passing interest in space or science would find this book interesting and a good read.

I learned some things from Cernan's book. I was surprised at the amount of in-fighting that went on between the astronauts in regards to their pecking order for spaceflights, and the clashing of their (well-deserved) egos. I also learned about the many close-calls that several space flights experienced that were buried by NASA and were never made public. I also appreciated the conflicts and tension that being an astronaut had on one's marriage. Cernan and many other astronauts suffered through the sorrows of divorce because of the immense time away, and training that NASA expected of their heros.

While not a gripping page-turner, this book is still an entertaining and informational book about NASA and our race to get to the moon before the Russians. The reader will gain personal insights into the people inside of the space suits, and will get to experience first-hand the experience of walking on the moon. Recommended.

Jim "Konedog" Koenig
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I've read the other reviews and found almost everyone felt the same as I about this great book. For one who is still involved in space activities, this book inspired me to keep my focus. Gene's attempt to place reader at a a very personal level was the best I've ever experienced. The personal touch helped convey a message to me that I'm not sure even Gene knew he was accomplishing. I've read many inspirational books, but none from such a straight forward gutsy fashion. This was real, it happened, he was part of it and it was hard; damned hard. The transgressions, anger, pressure, fears, and all the other emotions are part of this business and Gene puts it in a way that really communicates. I liked every morsel of this book, it is a study in and of itself. This is a book about LEADERSHIP that everyone can read, enjoy and learn from.
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