Eugene Cernan was a NASA astronaut and an engineer. He was born David Eugene “Gene” Andrew Cernan on March 14, 1934 in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in a diverse environment and graduated from Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois. He continued his education in Indiana at Purdue University, where he earned his Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering. He was contracted into the United States Navy at Purdue, and began flying jets as a Naval Aviator. In 1963, he obtained a Masters of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.
Soon after his earned his Master’s, Cernan was chosen among the third group of NASA astronauts by NASA. He was originally selected as back-up pilot for Gemini IX with Thomas Stafford; however, the first crew was killed in a plane crash, so they became the prime crew. Although they faced several problems, the crew was able to perform the first optical meeting and a lunar orbit abort rendezvous. Cernan is one of only three people to voyage to the moon at two separate times, one of only twelve people to walk on the moon and the only person to have descended to the moon in the lunar-lander twice.
While on the moon during Apollo 17, he performed three EVAs, totaling up to 22 hours. Before leaving the moon, Cernan wrote his daughter’s initials into the lunar dust. Because he was the last person to walk on the moon, Purdue University became the alma mater of both the first person to walk on the moon (Neil Armstrong) and the last (Cernan). In 1976, Cernan retired both from the Navy and from NASA, and went into private business.