By Dan Clendenin
The Last Man on the Moon (2018)
Many people of a certain age can name the first person to set foot on the moon — Neil Armstrong (1930–2012), the commander of the Apollo 11 mission, on July 21, 1969, with his now famous epigram: “That’s one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind.” He and Buzz Aldrin spent two and a half hours exploring Tranquility Base. In fact, there have been exactly twelve people who have walked on the moon during the Apollo 11 through 17 missions, and no one has done it more than once. This made for Netflix biographical documentary examines the very last person to accomplish the feat, Gene Cernan, who along with Jack Schmitt landed on the moon on December 11, 1972, and did three moonwalks in three days. These were heady and patriotic days back in the beginning years of “the space age.” Some 530 million people watched the Apollo 11 event all over the world. In this film about Cernan, it’s remarkable to see how he was a worldwide celebrity after the event. In a sort of sad historical footnote, since the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle program (1977–2011), the only way for Americans to travel to the International Space Station has been to pay Russia for rides on its rockets. This film about Cernan was released at almost the same time as two other related films: Earthrise (2018), a 30-minute “Op-Doc” by the New York Times that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the iconic photo of the earth rising above the lunar surface that was taken on the Apollo 8 mission; and First Man (2018), which tells the story of Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling).
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