The National Aviation Hall of Fame reflects on the passing of Eugene A. “Gene” Cernan, 2000 Enshrinee
(DAYTON, Ohio – January 17, 2017) It is with much sadness and admiration that the National Aviation Hall of Fame reflects on the passing of 2000 Enshrinee, Capt. Eugene A. “Gene” Cernan, USN, age 82. Capt Cernan died on January 16th in Houston, Texas, after a lengthy illness. We find comfort in learning from NASA that he was surrounded by family, and offer our sincere condolences to his wife, Jan Nanna Cernan, former wife, Barbara Jean Atchley, daughter Tracy Cernan Woolie, and the extended Cernan Family.
Capt. Cernan was enshrined with the Class of 2000, and immediately became a valued supporter of the NAHF. He was often heard to exclaim that of all the many accolades he had received in his career, the two he held most dear were his election into the Naval Aviation Hall of Honor and his induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Capt. Cernan returned to Dayton to participate in the NAHF 2003 Pioneers of Flight Homecoming, and the 2009 Apollo Crew Reunion, at which the group received the Milton Caniff Spirit of Flight Award. On October 1, 2016, Capt. Cernan was honored with the NAHF’s Neil Armstrong Outstanding Achievement Award but, due to health issues, was unable to attend the Dayton ceremony. 2015 Enshrinee Eugene Kranz accepted on his behalf.
Additionally, Capt. Cernan often served as an Enshrinee representative at the annual National Aviation Heritage Invitational, held at the Reno Air Races, where with fellow enshrinees he enjoyed co-presenting winners of the juried competitions for best restored vintage aircraft with their trophies. He also joined fellow Enshrinees for the presentation of the annual Combs Gates Award at the NBAA convention.
Ever the advocate for education and inspiring youngsters to higher achievement, in 2005 he was among several Enshrinees who participated at various stops in the nationwide tour of the NAHF’s SkyReach Education Program, carried on a specially modified Douglas DC-3 named “Duggy.” The inscription he penned in the copy of his book in the NAHF archives reads, “Always shoot for the moon and you will and somewhere among the stars.” Capt. Cernan is certainly among those stars, along with his fellow air and space pioneers that have gone before him.
Though he ably carried the mantle of “the last man on the moon,” he was a passionate advocate, all the way to the halls of Congress, for the renewal of America’s manned space exploration program. Frequently referencing himself as the most recent to have walked the lunar surface, he also reveled in encouraging youngsters to consider the potential that they might be the next to walk on the moon, or perhaps Mars. Capt. Cernan was often heard to challenge an audience to “Dream the impossible and go out and make it happen. I walked on the moon. Why can’t you?”
For more information on Capt. Cernan, please see his complete NAHF biography on this website.
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