Whatever journeys we humans make in future there will always be something irreducibly romantic about the early Apollo missions.
Those pioneers, some of whom were killed in pursuit of the dream, have rightly been lionised over the years and have become philosopher-scientists blessed with some celestial insight harvested from the rocky surface.
Gene Cernan is now an elderly rancher, but in 1972 he led Apollo 17, the last mission, and spent three days on the surface. That voyage captured the famous “Blue Marble” photo that is pre-packed in many an iPhone, a device that had more computing power than Nasa had at its disposal to run a rule across its rocket science.
The Last Man On The Moon tells Gene’s story from farm boy to Top Gun through to devil-may-care crew-cut hero to his lunar encounter and his life beyond. It also talks to ex-wife Barbara who wanted to be a housewife but ended up an ice planet orbiting her husband’s stellar fame.
“If you think going to the moon is hard, you should try staying at home.”
Mark Craig’s impressive documentary is at its finest capturing the majestic ambition and execution of the Apollo missions. Earth-rise, moon boots, space walks and splashdowns in vehicles the size of a Renault Clio. Staggering.
Unfortunately, Gene Cernan is no Neil Armstrong. His steely reserve prevents him rising to the occasion. He’s too wily and hard-bitten to succumb to what we earth-bound folk want – a grand sweep of life, death, exploration and spirituality all spilled forth in a perfect haiku through a catch in the throat.
Cernan still possesses that leathery disposition that suggests he was driven, ego-centric and maddening as well as an inattentive and distant husband and father to daughter Tracy.
Ironically, he will be remembered as one of the greatest dads of all time.
“I don’t know what possessed me to do it but I just scratched Tracy’s initials in the lunar surface. And some day sometime I can only believe someone will go back and that’s what they’ll find,” he said.
The Last Man on the Moon is available on iTunes and On Demand from April 15