Memorial service held for astronaut Gene Cernan

A memorial service is held in Houston, Texas for the last astronaut to walk on the moon, Gene Cernan.

HOUSTON, TEXAS (REUTERS) - A memorial service was held in Houston on Tuesday (Jan 24) for Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut to walk on the moon - an experience that he said made him "belong to the universe".

Mr Cernan, who was also the second American to walk in space, died surrounded by his family at the age of 82 last Monday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement.

A separate statement from his family and released by Nasa said his death came after "ongoing health issues".

Mr Cernan and fellow Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt became members of the most exclusive club in the universe on Dec 11, 1972, when they stepped from their lunar landing module onto the moon's surface. Only 10 other people - all American astronauts - had done so before and none since.

"Oh, my golly," Mr Cernan told mission control in Houston as he touched the moon. "Unbelievable."

For three days, the moon was home for Mr Cernan and Mr Schmitt. They rambled more than 30km in their lunar roving vehicle and gathered more than 100 kg of rocks during their 22 hours of exploration of craters and hills.

Mr Cernan is survived by his wife, Jan Nanna Cernan, his daughter and son-in-law, Tracy Cernan Woolie and Marion Woolie, step-daughters Kelly Nanna Taff and husband, Michael, and Danielle Nanna Ellis and nine grandchildren.