Astronaut Spotlight: Charlie Duke

Astronaut Charlie Duke

Charlie Duke was born on October 3rd, 1935 in Charlotte North Carolina. Growing up, he was active in the Boy Scouts, earning the rank of Eagle Scout. He went on to attend and graduate the U.S. Naval Academy earning degrees in naval science, aeronautics, and astronautics. He cross-commissioned into the United States Air Force, where he flew numerous advanced jet aircraft, served in many different roles as an officer, graduated test pilot school, and earned the rank of Brigadier General.

Duke was selected to be part of the fifth class of astronauts named by NASA in April 1966. Before his assignment on Apollo 16, he was a member of the support crew for Apollo 10 and served as CapCom for Apollo 11. It was Duke who was calling out the remaining fuel to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they landed on the Moon. Duke was also the backup Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 13, but actually got measles and unknowingly exposed a member of the primary crew, Ken Mattingly, to the disease. Mattingly had to be replaced on Apollo 13 by Jack Swigert. However, when Duke was later selected to be the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 16 along with John Young as commander, Mattingly was named as their command module pilot.

Young and Duke landed on the Moon in April 1972. With their electric roving vehicle, Young and Duke logged over 20 hours of extra-vehicular activity in a record-setting 71 hours on the lunar surface. Duke also brought along a photo of his wife and kids, which he left on the Moon. Duke is an active lecturer and supporter of STEM and the space program. He has been an invaluable member of the Back To Space team, and we are incredibly grateful to have this American hero still inspiring the next generation of leaders in STEM and space.

Post by Christopher Franklin

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