Artist and astronaut honored at convention

Last man on the moon, painter feted

October 24, 2013

A 10-foot by 20-foot mural at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying took 56 years to complete, acknowledged artist Mike Machat, because that was how long ago as a child he was first inspired by Douglas Aircraft. Actually painting the mural, which includes profile views of 10 highly influential designs by Donald Douglas, took five months and 600 hours—mostly done while the museum was open, creating a living exhibit for visitors.

For his work, including that impressive mural, Machat received the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s Combs-Gates Award and a $20,000 honorarium. The award was announced by Ron Kaplan, enshrinement director for the Dayton-based Hall of Fame.

The award was presented at the National Business Aviation Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas Oct. 23. The association presented its prestigious Meritorious Service Award to retired Navy Capt. Gene Cernan, a retired NASA astronaut, commander of Apollo 17, and the last man on the moon. Among previous winners are Douglas, Charles Lindbergh, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager for their Voyager flight, and the Tuskegee Airmen.

A panel of luminaries, led by renowned aerobatic and airshow pilot Sean D. Tucker, complimented the space traveler for his pioneering spirit, reverence, and never-ending drive to support manned space flight and encourage kids to do their best. R.A. “Bob” Hoover, a longtime friend of Cernan’s, expressed his pride in knowing the naval aviator and GA pilot. NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz related how Cernan took a huge risk when he turned down the chance to be a crew member on Apollo 15 so that he could instead have a chance at commanding Apollo 17. “I want command,” Kranz recalled Cernan saying. The gamble paid off, as Cernan went on to command Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon.

“All I ever wanted to do is the best I can,” Cernan said, graciously accepting the award. He urged the audience to “get the attention of a kid, make learning fun, and you can teach them anything.” Noting the challenges facing the early space crews who were literally writing the book on how to design and fly spacecraft, he relayed, “Dream the impossible and then make it happen.”

Thomas B. Haines

Thomas B Haines | Editor in Chief, AOPA

AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.