Forty years ago this week, the last man on the Moon returned to Earth.
"Before Gene Cernan left the moon on the Apollo 17 mission he remembered his daughter in a special way. “I drove the Rover about a mile away from the LM and parked it carefully so the television camera could photograph our takeoff the next day. As I dismounted, I took a moment to kneel and with a single finger, scratched [my daughter] Tracy’s initials, ‘TDC,’ in the lunar dust, knowing those three letters would remain there undisturbed for more years than anyone could imagine.”" More.
On Dec. 14, 1972, Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan climbed from the moon’s dusty surface up the rungs of the Lunar Module ladder, entered his spacecraft and began the journey back to earth.
Almost 40 years later, he still finds it strange to have been the last man on the moon.
"I physically hesitated, asking what the meaning of the last three days was -- not just to me, but to all who would follow, and not just technologically but philosophically, spiritually. I didn’t have an answer then, and I don’t now." Continued here.
And here is what he said as he left the moon:
"As I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come (but we believe not too long into the future), I'd like to just say what I believe history will record: That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind."