This terrific documentary is a salient reminder of how much the world has changed since the 1960s and the glory days of Apollo. As a lad who grew up fascinated by the space program of that era, it’s hard to express what the future looked like back then, when everything seemed possible. Of course, I was a kid struck by the romantic adventure of going to the moon, I didn’t understand the political expediencies of budgets and a Vietnam War. The future I thought was ahead of us, that I thought we would inherit, was not what eventually transpired.
How can it be that the last time a human left a footprint on the moon, or even left low-Earth orbit, was back in 1972? What happened? How is it that the launch pads and all the NASA infrastructure is now left just rusting in the sun?
Such thoughts are inevitable, and the sentiments considered, watching this fascinating documentary film that is, as the title suggests, chiefly centered upon the life and thoughts of Gene Cernan, the titular last man on the moon, and his adventure on Apollo 17 in 1972. Its a surprisingly candid and emotional film that reveals much of those heady days of the space program, his life that lead to it and the cost to his private life because of it. Of course there is a lot of ego demonstrated here- Cernan was not the reclusive type like Neil Armstrong was, but there are a few moments towards the end where Cernan reflects at what he lost by being so obsessed with his career. The knowledge that time is indeed finite – and that Cernan himself only had a little time left, as he passed away in 2017- makes his story rather poignant. How does one live anything like an ordinary life having been a part of something as massive as Apollo? When you are one of only twelve people in all of human history to have stepped on the surface of another world?
This documentary doesn’t really have the answers, but it is very informative and quite emotive and beautifully shot. It is indeed a very sobering reminder of what we as a species can do when the political will is there, but also a reminder of what can be lost when we lose our way. Was the expense and effort behind Apollo a folly? What was the point of it all? Will we ever follow in the footsteps of those original twelve? These are questions that rattle around in your head after watching something like this. Its all very inspiring but rather depressing too. The future isn’t what it used to be.