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Charles Moss Duke, Jr. (born October 3, 1935), a retired USAF Brigadier General, was a United Statesmarker astronaut and engineer for NASAmarker. He is the youngest of only twelve people who have walked on the moon.

Duke married Dorothy Meade Claiborne, and has two sons, Charles III born in 1965 and Thomas born in 1967, and nine grandchildren. He and his wife reside in New Braunfels, Texasmarker.


Charles Moss Duke was born in Charlotte, North Carolinamarker on October 3, 1935. He attended Lancaster High School in Lancaster, South Carolinamarker, and graduated as valedictorian from the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Floridamarker in 1953. He is also an Eagle Scout. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Naval Sciences from the United States Naval Academymarker in 1957 and a Master's degree in Aeronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker in 1964.


Duke was commissioned upon graduation from the Naval Academy in 1957. Entering the US Air Force, he went to Spence Air Base in Georgiamarker for primary flight training, then to Webb Air Force Basemarker in Texasmarker for basic flying training, where he graduated with distinction in 1958. Duke completed advanced training on the F-86 Sabre aircraft at Moody Air Force Basemarker in Georgia, where he is a distinguished graduate. After completion of this training, Duke served three years as a fighter interceptor pilot with the 526th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Ramstein Air Basemarker in Germanymarker.

He has logged 4,147 hours flying time, which includes 3,632 hours in jet aircraft.


After graduating from the Aerospace Research Pilot School in September 1965, Duke stayed on as an instructor teaching control systems and flying in the F-101 Voodoo, F-104 Starfighter, and T-33 Shooting Star aircraft. In April 1966 he was one of the 19 selected for NASA's fifth group of astronauts.

In 1969 Duke was a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10. He then served as capcom for Apollo 11, the first landing on the Moon, where his distinctive southern drawl became familiar to viewers around the world. As capcom, he became 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. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot!"

Duke was backup Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 13, however shortly before the mission he caught German measles from a friend's child and inadvertently exposed the prime crew to the disease. As Ken Mattingly had no natural immunity to the disease, Mattingly was then replaced as command module pilot by Jack Swigert. Mattingly would be reassigned as command module pilot of Duke's flight, Apollo 16.

Duke served as lunar module pilot of Apollo 16 in 1972 where he and John W. Young landed at the Descartes Highlands and conducted three EVAs, making Duke the tenth person to walk upon the surface of the Moon. He also served as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 17.

He logged 265 hours in space, plus 21 hours and 28 minutes of extra vehicular activity.

Space flight experience

Apollo 16 (April 16April 27 1972) was launched from John F. Kennedy Space Centermarker and was the fifth manned lunar landing mission. The crew consisted of John W. Young as spacecraft commander, Ken Mattingly as command module pilot, and Duke as lunar module pilot. Apollo 16 was the first scientific expedition to inspect, survey, and sample materials and surface features in the Descartes regionmarker of the rugged lunar highlands. Duke commenced the record setting lunar surface stay of 71 hours and 14 minutes by maneuvering the lunar module Orion to a landing on the rough Cayley Plains. In three subsequent excursions onto the lunar surface, he logged 20 hours and 15 minutes in extravehicular activities involving the emplacement and activation of scientific equipment and experiments, the collection of nearly 213 lb (96 kg) of rock and soil samples, and the evaluation and use of Rover-2 over the roughest and blockiest surface yet encountered on the moon.

Other Apollo 16 achievements included the largest payload placed in lunar orbit (76,109 lb or 34,595 kg); first cosmic ray detector deployed on the lunar surface; first lunar observatory with the far UV camera; and longest in-flight EVA from a command module during transearth coast (1 hour and 13 minutes). The Apollo 16 mission was concluded with a Pacific Oceanmarker splashdown and subsequent recovery by .

Charlie Duke, February 2009

Personal life

He is married to Dorothy Meade Claiborne of Atlanta, Georgiamarker. They have two grown sons and nine grandchildren. He and his wife reside in New Braunfels, Texasmarker. Recreational interests include hunting, fishing, reading, and playing golf. Duke is an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. Duke became a Christian after his Apollo 16 experience, he is active in prison ministry.


In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon Duke was portrayed by J. Downing.

Duke is one of the astronauts featured in the book and documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. At the end of the documentary, in response to Moon landing hoax theories, he says "We've been to the Moon nine times. Why would we fake it nine times, if we faked it?"


Duke has compared his walking on the moon to that of a "duck waddle," saying that John Young's moonwalking was much more graceful.

In May 2006, Charles Duke donated a moon rock through NASA to his Alma Mater Admiral Farragut Academy. The rock is currently on display at the academy's Quarter-Deck.

In August 2007 Duke made appearances at Spacefest 2007 in Phoenix, Arizonamarker

On October 17, 2007, Duke donated relics from the Apollo 16 mission to Kennesaw State Universitymarker in metropolitan Atlanta.

On January 28, 2008, Duke was a guest on the radio show Evil Avatar Radio, a podcast about the videogame industry.

On April 9, 2008, Duke was a guest on The Paul Edwards Program on AM 1500 WLQV in Detroit where he discussed his Christian faith and the allegations that the moon landings were faked.

Special honors

Charles Moss Duke has received several honors in his life. In 1973, he was presented an honorary doctorate of Philosophy from the University of South Carolinamarker. Duke also received an honorary doctorate of Humanities from Francis Marion University in 1990. Other honors include:



  1. SpaceFest Report #1, Phil Plait, accessed 18 August 2007
  2. Autograph Show, Spacefest 2007, accessed 18 August 2007
  3. Paul Edwards Program

Further reading

  • Moonwalker by Charlie & Dotty Duke, published by Thomas Nelson Inc, April 1990, ISBN 0-8407-9106-2

External links

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