WASHINGTON • United States astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man to leave the Moon, has died aged 82.
Mr Cernan was the spacecraft commander of Apollo 17 - his third space flight and the last scheduled US manned mission to the Moon - in December 1972.
The 11th astronaut to walk on the Moon, he followed fellow crew member Harrison Schmitt - the 12th man to step onto the Moon - in boarding their lunar module to return home, and so became the final human to leave a footprint on the surface.
"We are saddened by the loss of retired Nasa astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon," the US space agency said.
According to a family statement, Mr Cernan, a retired naval officer, died after ongoing health issues. "It is with very deep sadness that we share the loss of our beloved husband and father," the family said.
The moonwalker's death comes one month after that of another space legend - Mr John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. Mr Glenn was the last of the first seven astronauts who led the nascent 1959 US space programme.
On the last manned Moon mission - Mr Cernan's second - the crew captured the iconic image of Earth dubbed Blue Marble.
"I'd just like to record that America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow," Mr Cernan said as he left the Moon.
Born in Chicago in 1934, he was in a class of 14 astronauts chosen to join the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in 1963, serving on both Gemini and Apollo missions.
Mr Cernan spent 566 hours and 15 minutes in space - more than 73 hours of it on the Moon's surface. He retired from the navy and Nasa in 1976, entering the private business sector and providing TV commentary for early space shuttle flights.