A man must rise above the Earth to the top of the atmosphere and beyond, and only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.
Socrates (circa 399 BC)
On December 13, 1972, at 11:40:56 p.m. (CST), Apollo 17 Commander Eugene A. Cernan became the last person to leave a footprint in the lunar soil. Four days later, after a 500,000-mile round trip, Captain Cernan, along with crewmates Harrison "Jack" Schmitt and Kansan Ronald E. Evans, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. It was the conclusion of the Apollo lunar program and the end of what historians now describe as the greatest technological achievement in the history of mankind.
Backed by more than 400,000 dedicated workers, 25,000 companies and the will of an entire nation, 12 Apollo astronauts walked on the Moon during six missions between 1969 and 1972. Their scientific goal was to study and explore, but Apollo's legacy is much greater. It taught our nation - and the entire world - how to share a common dream. The Moon landings proudly proclaimed that our nation accepted no limits on what we could accomplish.
This statue of Astronaut Cernan leaving those final footsteps on another world should remind us that the continued advancement of mankind has forever been linked to the exploration of the unknown and the pushing of human boundaries. It is a reminder that every generation has an obligation to take risks in order to take our society to ever higher levels of existence. We must also be reminded by history that societies which have not used their knowledge and capabilities to lead humanity into the future are always replaced by nations that do.
Since the crew of Apollo 17 left the moon in 1972, no human exploration beyond Earth orbit has been attempted. This statue is to forever remind each generation of its responsibilities to future generations. The universe anxiously awaits our arrival.
As I take man's last step from the surface...I'd like to say what I believe history will record.
That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow.
And, as we leave the Moon...we leave as we came, and God willing, as we shall return,
with peace and hope for all mankind.
Captain Eugene A. Cernan, USN (Ret.)
Commissioned for the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center through the generosity of John G. and Chris Harris.
July 16, 1998