Heroes and dreaming of man exploring space both dying

Published 10:36 am Thursday, January 19, 2017

Another major historical milestone and a little bit of my childhood faded away this week when astronaut Gene Cernan passed away at age 82.

Like most boys 8 or 10 years of age that are now graying and in their 50s, astronauts were larger than life men who walked among the stars, flew in incredible space crafts and drove awesome looking “dune buggies” on the moon. What kid wouldn’t think that was cool?

Besides athletes, When I was a kid, there were only a few heroes for me — Evel Knievel, The Six Million Dollar Man and astronauts. Although I wasn’t the daredevil among the three boys my parents had, I admired men who could do what I believe were incredible feats. I admired them, and at the top of the list were the few men in the world known as astronauts.

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I was only 5 when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon in 1969, but I recall three years later watching on TV as Cernan skipped about the moon’s surface gathering moon rocks with a grabber attached to a metal rod. Little did I know at the time he would be the last human being to traverse the moon’s surface.

Since the NASA space program has been phased out, men and women, such as Cernan, have been a dying breed. Literally. Armstrong passed away in 2012 and John Glenn died just a few weeks ago. And it seems that dream of space travel so many in my generation believed would happen, has been dying with them.

Cernan spent the latter years of his life imploring government officials to once again take that step beyond our own atmosphere and explore galaxies with manned spacecraft. He was passionate about our nation’s leaders getting the United States back in the “space race.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the course our nation has decided to take.

It saddens me that children today don’t have that same iconic hero to look up to. It seems to me that we no longer have men of vision like Gene Cernan and that saddens me even more.

Rob Sigler is managing editor of The Oxford  EAGLE. Contact him at rob.sigler@oxfordeagle.com.