Title: The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America’s Race in Space
Author: Eugene Cernan and Don Davis
Release Date: March 15, 1999
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, History
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Astronaut Eugene (“Gene”) Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17, the last mission of the Apollo program. In this memoir, the “last man on the moon” discusses his career with NASA and gives the reader a behind the scenes look at the Gemini and Apollo programs.
I love reading about the American space program, so picking up Gene Cernan’s memoir was a no-brainer for me. I’d heard from multiple people that it’s one of the best astronaut memoirs out there, and after reading it, I definitely have to agree. Cernan’s book is exciting, insightful, and fun to read.
One of the things that struck me about The Last Man on the Moon was the fact that it wasn’t dry at all. Often, astronaut memoirs can be a bit difficult to read because, let’s face it, while they are heroes, they aren’t necessarily great writers! The collaboration between Cernan and Davis, though, was incredibly readable. There was a wonderful balance between personal information and NASA details. Cernan also did a great job covering all the important points of the Apollo program, from the fire of Apollo 1 to the first moon landing.
One thing I really appreciated about The Last Man on the Moon was Cernan’s focus on the astronaut wives. Being an astronaut in the Apollo era was a glorious profession, but there hasn’t been a lot of focus on the women who were left behind, watching their husbands journey to the moon. Cernan spends a lot of time discussing the difficulties the wives had, from dealing with their husbands’ deaths to putting on a brave face for the press when they were scared to death. Cernan’s respect for the wives really comes through in this book, and makes it really unique.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Man on the Moon and am glad that I picked it up. It’s an absolute must for any NASA/space buff, but I also think it would be a great book for those with just a passing interest in the subject. I only hope that it doesn’t set the bar too high for the multitude of unread astronaut memoirs/biographies sitting on my shelves!