Margie T Logarta had just 10 minutes to speak to retired navy captain Eugene A Cernan,the second American to walk in space and the “last man on the moon”(Apollo 17), during his lightning visit to promote the innovative Bombardier-Shangri-La tie up (see Up front, page 8). In that short encounter, the former NASA astronaut relived the immortal moment when he touched down on lunar ground.
Have you visited Hongkong before?
My first time was in 1960 and I arrived on an aircraft carrier called Shangri-La.But I’ve been coming here frequently, flying a Bombardier , mind you.I endorse the company and Omega, which I wore to the moon.
Is that the one you’re wearing now or is it in some space museum?
No, this is a new one (showing his Omega 33 Speedmaster). The one to the moon is at home. And you’re still actively flying? I fly a Learjet 40 and 45 and of course, the Global Express (Bombardier’s long-haul product)….Wanna come on one ofmy flights?
Why not! And where is home?
You go quail hunting then.
I do and I’ve hunted in that same area (where US vice president Dick Cheney accidentally shot fellow hunter Harry Whittington).
So what do you think of the Cheney incident?
Accidents happen all the time,but because he’s the Vice President…(laughter)
After the moon, which planet are you keen to have a go at?
Mars – because it’s there;because it’s challenging; because no man has ever done it.
Do you participate in studies on the effects of travel on the human body?
I get a physical at NASA yearly.They want to observe – after the fact – if there are any differences between someone who has gone to the moon and someone who hasn’t. But as for those kinds of experiments you’re referring to, not really.
What’s the best way to fly healthy?
I try not to eat too much on the plane, try not to have too much alcohol – and that’s difficult on those long-haul flights. I try to sleep and also drink lots of water.
After what you’ve achieved, you certainly fit the bill as a seasoned traveller, but do you suffer from jet lag?
I get jet lag like anybody else. When I get on that plane tomorrow for San Francisco, I assure you, I am going to get it.
But let me tell you: I did not get jet lag on the way to the moon.
I guess that qualified as a long-haul flight, huh?
Three days it took.And it was total daylight all the way to the moon.
Goodness me, how did you all cope?
We could control our days by blacking out the windows.Sometimes,we worked 15 hours and another time,it was 28 hours.One did get fatigued but not once did I experience jet lag. How many times have you done these trips? I’ve been in space three times and flown to the moon twice. (Editor’s note:Capt Cernan has logged 566 hours and 15 minutes in space,of which more than 73 hours were spent on the surface of the moon.)
Tell us, how did it feel to set foot on the moon. Was it squishy or firm?
Definitely a firm landing! And there was some moon dust too.
We landed in a valley, frozen in time,one that had been there for millions of years. It was the first time to be seen by human eyes.
Did you come back a different person?
We not only left the earth physically but also spiritually and emotionally.You couldn’t help but change.
Standing there looking at the Earth from the moon, one realises there has to be a creator. It’s a truly humbling experience.
I wish I could take everybody with me to the moon and have them stand beside me and see what I saw.I know if that happened the world would be a very different place.
Weren’t you scared at any moment during your missions?
No.When we left,we left with every intention of coming back.Yes,we took the risk but we weren’t planning to be martyrs.
So you told your wife: “Honey, I’ll be back soon.”
Yup,and told her to keep the soup warm too!