By LISA KELLEY
After 47 years, the retired, American moonwalker, brigadier-general Charles Moss Duke Jr. still vividly recalls his steps on the lunar surface.
Duke was the guest speaker at the Mayor’s 45th Annual Prayer Luncheon at Club Italia, Oct. 18.
Duke, 83, was chosen by NASA in April 1966 to become an astronaut at the Houston Space Center.
As it worked out, he was part of the support crew for Apollo 10 and served as the backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 13.
“As for Apollo 11, I was on mission control for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin,” says Duke.
Armstrong personally asked Duke to be on the other end of the radio at the Kennedy Space Center.
Apollo 16 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center on April 16, 1972.
Duke remembered the excitement, as the engines from Apollo 16 started
“Let’s go, let’s go. It took eight seconds for the engines to come up to full power, then it started to shake,” says Duke. “I didn’t remember anybody telling me it was (going) to shake like that. After two minutes and 42 seconds, it shut down and everything went as smooth as glass.”
“I asked the doctor what my heart rate was at lift off, and he said it was one-forty-four,” Duke says.
Duke recalled, looking out the window of the Saturn V, and he saw “the whole circle of the earth. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Pictures do it no justice.”
The audience of roughly 500 continued to listen as Duke continued to elaborate about his moonwalking adventure.
“We hung in the blackness of space for our three-day trip to the moon,” says Duke.
They took another day to circle the moon, and then landed on the Descartes Highlands.
Duke and John Young powered up the electric cells that were attached to the Lunar Rover, and then drove out to find the perfect spot on the moon’s surface to fly-the-flag.
“John was the driver and I was the navigator, and the thing bounced across
“We had a lot of fun up there,” says Duke.
They took advantage of the low gravity.
“On earth, I weighed 165-kilograms, but on the moon, I weighed about 30-kilograms, so I could jump a whole lot due to (lower) gravity,” says Duke.
The Apollo 16 mission lasted 11 days, including three spent on the moon’s surface exploring the mountainous highlands. They collected rocks, meteors and sand samples that were later examined back on Earth.
“I was at the top of my career at 36,” says Duke, who was the youngest astronaut to go to the moon, and the ninth man to walk on the moon’s surface.
He retired a brigadier general in 1975 and went into private business.
He was always looking for the next adventure.
“I just couldn’t find enough in my life, so in 1978 I made the Lord, Lord of my life,” says Duke.
Duke found his last adventure when he and his wife, Dorothy, started the Duke Ministry. He now speaks openly at conferences about his faith and his moon adventure.