HOUSTON—Gene Cernan made his name as the NASA astronaut who was the last man to set foot on the moon. As it turns out, he was also one of the NASA astronauts who took “smut” into space.
Those involved with the estate of Cernan—who died Jan. 16, 2017—have found a centerfold from the October 1971 Penthouse magazine Commander Cernan and his crewmates—Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt—took on the Apollo 17 space mission with them. The unusual and unique artifact is set to be sold off as part of a Space and Aviation auction from RR Auction, April 13-30.
According to The Daily Mail, the astronauts took the centerfold with them, but blocked out the “naughty bits” with stickers of cartoon characters. The photos feature a partially nude Helen Caunt, who was photographed for the magazine’s “Back to School” issue by Penthouse founder Bob Gucionni.
The centerfold launched into space on Dec. 7, 1972, as a secret part of the flight plan. In a letter he wrote last year certifying the photo spread, Cernan said the inclusion of Penthouse in the flight plan was revenge after the Apollo 14 backup crew left stickers depicting Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoon characters throughout the spacecraft. An Apollo 14 primary crew member serving as backup for Apollo 17 used the same stickers to cover up the Penthouse photos and inserted them into the flight plan.
“We would open a page and up popped the centerfold,” Cernan wrote.
While several pages and copies of Playboy were known to have been taken into space, this is believed to be the only Penthouse taken.
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