San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 12th, 2009
Apollo astronaut to talk about moon landing

NASA PHOTO

Lunar module pilot Charles M. Duke Jr. explored moon’s rugged Descartes region with John Young during the Apollo 16 mission in April 1972. He speaks April 7 at Texas State University.

SUBMITTED REPORT

Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., the youngest of only 12 astronauts to walk on the moon, will speak on “The Adventure of the Apollo Moon Landings” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, in Taylor-Murphy 101 on the Texas State University campus.

The lecture, sponsored by the Department of History and Phi Alpha Theta, is made possible by an award from the University Lectures Committee. The lecture is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served afterward.

Duke, retired USAF Brigadier General, was the 10th person to walk on the Moon. He served as lunar module pilot of Apollo 16 in 1972, when he and John W. Young made the first landing in the rough Descartes Highlands region and conducted three extravehicular activities.

During a record-setting stay on the lunar surface of 71 hours and 14 minutes, Duke and Young placed and activated scientific equipment and experiments, collected nearly 213 pounds of rock and soil samples, and evaluated the use of Rover-2 over the roughest surface yet encountered on the moon.

In 1969, Duke was a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10. He then served as capcom (capsule communicator) for Apollo 11, the first landing on the Moon, where his distinctive southern drawl became familiar to viewers around the world. As capcom, he was the voice of a Mission Control made nervous by a long landing that almost expended all of the lunar module Eagle’s fuel.
Duke’s famous first words to the Apollo 11 crew on the surface of the moon were flustered: “Roger, Twank…Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue here. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot!”

Duke was backup Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 13. Two days after the launch, an electrical fault caused an explosion, resulting in a loss of oxygen and electrical power in the Command Module. The crew shut down the Command Module and used the Lunar Module as a “lifeboat” for the return to earth.

Despite great hardship caused by severely limited power, cabin heat, and potable water, the crew successfully returned to Earth and the mission eventually became known as a “successful failure”. A radio transmission from Astronaut James Lovell during the mission, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” spawned the misquoted phrase in popular culture, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Duke also served as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 17. He has logged 265 hours in space, plus 21 hours and 28 minutes of extra vehicular activity. In December 1975, he retired from the Astronaut program to enter private business. He is owner of Duke Investments and is President of Charlie Duke Enterprises.

He and his wife Dorothy, who live in New Braunfels, have two sons and nine grandchildren. Duke is an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. After his Apollo 16 experience, he became a Christian, and he is active in prison ministry. He is also author of the book Moonwalker.

For information, contact the Texas State Department of History at (512) 245-2142.

— FROM TEXAS STATE NEWS SERVICE/MARK HENDRICKS


CORRECTION: The article’s headline originally identified Duke as an Apollo 13 astronaut. He was the backup lunar module pilot on that mission but was not aboard to the fated spacecraft.

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5 thoughts on “Apollo astronaut to talk about moon landing

  1. Mark, you may want to change your headline. General Duke was lunar module pilot, and explored the northern reaches of the Descartes Formation with John Young, on Apollo 16.

    He was also the first man to talk with another person on the Moon, when he acknowledged Dr. Armstrong’s confirmation that “the Eagle has landed,” with..

    “Roger, copy you down Eagle. You gotta bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”

    He has to have been among the most cheerful people among the Apollo moonwalkers. He and Dr. Schmitt on Apollo 17 were clearly the most delighted of the astronauts to be on the Moon, if you don’t count Pete Conrad of Apollo 12.

    The Descartes Formation, and the landing site between North Ray and South Ray craters are very easy to locate through a telescope, and I would ask him, if I could be there, if he still holds any interest in the Descartes swirl and the value placed on the Apollo 16 samples still setting the standard for scientists like the Japanese controllers of the Kaguya (SELENE 1) probe.

    I envy you, if you are going. He’s a national treasure.

  2. It still amazes me, decades after the last American on the moon, the majesty of it all — truly one of the greatest triumphs of humanity. I’ll be at this lecture with bells on my heels.

  3. <. Great …all Astronauts are ” National Treasures ”

    Texas State also needs to get John Herrington to come and speak, First Native American Astronaut !

  4. Phillip, as great as Mr. Herrington is, he’s not the first Native American astronaut.
    NASA astronaut Bill Pogue is.

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