Prague - Eugene Cernan, the last man to set his foot on the moon surface and a man with Czech ancestors visited Prague last week.
Together with his granddaughter he came to open the Nation Museum exhibition Human Traces: A Walk from Prehistory to the Moon.
When he flew to the moon in 1972, he took a Czechoslovak flag with him that he then gave to the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Ondřejov in southern Bohemia.
As history keeps repeating itself, another Czech item will soon make it to the universe.
Cosmic Songs in space
In a few months, a space shuttle will bring Jan Neruda's book Cosmic Songs to the Hubble Telescope, which is going to be the last mission reaching the telescope.
Jan Neruda was a Czech writer, poet and journalist, one of the leading representatives of the 19th century literary movement called Czech Realism.
"Andrew Feustel asked us to choose something for the shuttle. He is going to be the crew technician. His wife's mother comes from Brno, so it is a similar case as with Eugene Cernan," says Pavel Suchan from the Astronomical Institute in Ondřejov.
Neruda the Winner
Allegedly, there were ten different proposals - one of them was for example a photo of Dr. Frič, the founder of the Astronomical Institute. The spectrum of the largest Czech telescope that was obtained in 1962 was among the "competitors" as well.
"At the end we decided for something of national significance that is universe-related," explains the Astronomical Institute´s Suchan.
Apart from the topic, the book Cosmic Songs has also a close relationship to the Astronomical Institute - its founders used to be close friends with Jan Neruda.
After the Cosmic Songs return from the space trip next year, it will become a part of the Astronomical Museum exhibition, placed next to the Czechoslovak flag that Eugene Cerman brought.
Moon, then Mars
"Everything is about curiosity, which is what keeps the human kind going forward. I think that it makes sense to research the moon and see what it takes to live there," Eugene Cerman, the captain of Apollo 17 said to Aktuálně.cz.
"The next place to go is Mars. We have to find out how to shorten the travel time though. Is there life on Mars? Has their ever been life before? Did the Earth ever look the way Mars looks today? The robots that we send there can only answer programmed questions and they ignore questions that they were not programmed for. It would make more sense to send a man there with his curiosity," says Cernan.
"Mars can teach us a lot about the development of the solar system but we are also interested in the distant universe. Mars is very important though because there is a chance that the human kind could once move there when the sun becomes hotter in two or three billion years and burns the Earth. There have already been projects on atmosphere repair of the red planet," says Suchan.
"But for now we have to protect the rain forests and care about what is happening with our planet. On the other hand, people are intelligent enough to look at this topic with reasoned mind instead of political dogmas. That is what I agree on with your president," said Cernan.