Charles Moss Duke Jr.
Official NASA portrait, September 21, 1971
|Alma mater||USNA, B.S. 1957|
MIT, M.S. 1964
|Occupation||Fighter pilot, test pilot|
|Awards||Air Force Distinguished Service Medal (2)|
Legion of Merit
NASA Distinguished Service Medal
|Rank||Brigadier General, USAF|
Time in space
|11d 01h 51m|
|Selection||1966 NASA Group 5|
Total EVA time
|20 hours 25 minutes|
|Retirement||January 1, 1976|
Charles Moss Duke Jr. (born October 3, 1935) is an American former astronaut, U.S. Air Force (USAF) officer and test pilot. As lunar module pilot of Apollo 16 in 1972, he became the tenth and youngest person to walk on the Moon. A 1957 graduate of the United States Naval Academy in 1957, he joined the USAF. He completed advanced flight training on the F-86 Sabre at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, where he was a distinguished graduate. After completion of this training, Duke served three years as a fighter pilot with the 526th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Ramstein Air Base in West Germany. After graduating from the Aerospace Research Pilot School in September 1965, he stayed on as an instructor teaching control systems and flying in the F-101 Voodoo, F-104 Starfighter, and T-33 Shooting Star.
In April 1966, Duke was one of nineteen men selected for NASA's fifth group of astronauts. In 1969, he was a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10. He served as CAPCOM for Apollo 11, the first crewed landing on the Moon, where his distinctive Southern drawl became familiar to audiences around the world as 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 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. Shortly before the mission, he caught German measles (rubella) 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 replaced as command module pilot by Jack Swigert. Mattingly was reassigned as command module pilot of Duke's flight, Apollo 16. On this mission, Duke and John Young landed at the Descartes Highlands and conducted three extravehicular activities (EVAs). He also served as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 17. Duke retired from NASA in December 1975.
Following his retirement from NASA, Duke entered the Air Force Reserve and served as a mobilization augmentee to the Commander, USAF Basic Military Training Center and to the Commander, USAF Recruiting Service. He graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1978. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1979, and retired in June 1986. He has logged 4,147 hours flying time, which includes 3,632 hours in jet aircraft; and 265 hours in space, including 20 hours and 15 minutes of EVA. A resident of New Braunfels, Texas, he is currently chairman of the board of directors of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. He was named the Texan of the Year for 2020.
Early life and education
Charles Moss Duke Jr. was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on October 3, 1935, the son of Charles Moss Duke and his wife Willie Catherine née Waters. He was followed six minutes later by his identical twin brother William Waters (Bill) Duke. His mother traced her ancestry back to Colonel Philemon Berry Waters, with fought in the American Revolutionary War. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, brought the United States into World War II, his father volunteered to join the Navy, and was posted to Naval Air Station North Island in California. The family moved to California to join him, but after a year he was shipped out to the South Pacific, and Willie took the boys to Johnston, South Carolina, where her mother lived. His father returned from the South Pacific in 1944, and was stationed at Naval Air Station Daytona Beach, so the family moved there. After the war ended, they settled in Lancaster, South Carolina. A sister, Elizabeth (Betsy), was born in 1949.
As a boy, Duke and his brother Bill made model aircraft. A congenital heart defect caused Bill to drop out of strenuous sports, and eventually inspired him to pursue a career in medicine, but golf was a sport that they enjoyed together. Duke was active in the Boy Scouts of America and earned its highest rank, Eagle Scout in 1946. He attended Lancaster High School. Duke was impressed by the movie The Long Gray Line, and decided that he would like to pursue a military career. Since his father had served in the Navy, he wanted to go to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
As a first step, Duke went to see his local Congressman, James P. Richards, who lived in Lancaster, and Richards said that he would be pleased to give Duke his nomination, as a local boy. Richards advised Duke that he would still need to pass the entrance examination, and recommended that he attend a military prep school. Duke and his parents accepted this advice, and chose the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida, for his final two years of schooling. Duke sat the examination for Annapolis in the middle of his senior year, and soon after received a letter informing him that he had passed, and had been accepted into the class of 1957. The Lancaster News ran his picture on the front page along with the announcement of his acceptance. He graduated from Farragut as valedictorian and president of the senior class in 1953.
Duke entered the Naval Academy in June 1953. He was no athlete, but played golf for the academy team. During a two-month summer cruise to Europe on the escort carrier USS Siboney, he suffered from seasickness, and began questioning his decision to join the Navy. On the other hand he greatly enjoyed a familiarization flight in an N3N seaplane, and began thinking of a career in aviation. The United States Air Force Academy had only just been established and would not graduate its first class until 1959, so up to a quarter of the Annapolis class were permitted to volunteer for the United States Air Force. In fact, more than a quarter of the class of 1957 did so, and names were drawn from a hat. At his commissioning physical, Duke was shocked to find that he had a minor astigmatism in his right eye, which precluded becoming a naval aviator, but the Air Force said that it would still take him. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in naval sciences in June 1957, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force.
In July 1957, Duke, along with the other graduates of Annapolis and West Point who had chosen the Air Force, reported to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, for two weeks' orientation. He was then sent to Spence Air Force Base in Moultrie, Georgia for primary flight training. The first three months involved class work and training with the T-34 Mentor, while the next three were with the T-28 Trojan; both were propeller-driven aircraft. For the next phase of training, he went to Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring, Texas in March 1958 for training with the T-33 Shooting Star, a jet aircraft. He graduated near the top of his class, and received his wings and a certificate identifying him as a distinguished graduate, which gave him a choice of assignments. He chose to become a fighter pilot. He completed six months' advanced training on the F-86 Sabre aircraft at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia, where he was again a distinguished graduate.
Once again, Duke had his choice of assignments, and chose the 526th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Ramstein Air Base in West Germany. This was the height of the Cold War, and tensions ran high, especially during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. Duke chose the assignment precisely because it was the front line. Four of the 526th's F-86 (and later F-102 Delta Dagger) fighter-interceptors were always on alert, ready to scramble and intercept aircraft crossing the border from East Germany.
As his three-year tour of duty in Europe came to an end, Duke considered that his best career option to further his education, something that the USAF was encouraging. He applied to do an aeronautical engineering at North Carolina State University, but this was not available. Instead he was offered a place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in its master of science degree course in aeronautics and astronautics. He entered MIT in June 1952. It was in Boston that he met Dotty Claiborne, a graduate of Hollins College and the University of North Carolina, who had recently returned from a summer trip to Europe. They became engaged on Christmas Day, 1962, and were married by her uncle, Randolph Claiborne, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, in the Cathedral of Saint Philip, on June 1, 1953. They went to Jamaica for their honeymoon, but came down with food poisoning.
While he was courting Dotty, Duke's grades had slipped, and he was placed on scholastic probation, but the USAF allowed him to enrol for another term. For his dissertation, Duke teamed up with a classmate, Mike Jones, to perform statistical analysis for the Project Apollo guidance systems. As part of his work, they got to meet astronaut Charles Bassett. Their work earned them an A, bringing his average up to the required B, and he was awarded his master of science degree in May 1964.
For his next assignment, Duke applied for the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School (ARPS), although he felt his chances of admission were slim given that he only barely met the minimum qualification. Nonetheless. orders came through for him to attend class 64-C, which commenced in August 1964 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The commandant at the time was Chuck Yeager, and Duke's twelve-member class included Spence M. Armstrong, Al Worden, Stuart Roosa and Hank Hartsfield. His first child, Charles Moss Duke III, was born at the base hospital in March 1965. Peter Hoag topped the class; Duke tied for second place. After graduating from ARPS the 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.
On September 10, 1965, NASA announced that it was seeking to recruit a fifth group of astronauts. Duke spotted a front page article in the Los Angeles Times it, and realised that he met all the requirements. He went to see Yeager and the deputy commandant, Colonel Robert Buchanan. Buchanan told him that there were two astronaut selections in progress, for NASA and the USAF's Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program. He told Duke that he could apply for both, but if he did, MOL would take him. Duke applied to NASA.
In April 1966, Duke was one of 19 men selected for NASA's fifth group of astronauts. In 1969, he 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 audiences around the world. As CAPCOM, he became the voice of a Mission Control nervous by a long landing that almost expended all of the Lunar Module Eagle's fuel. Duke's 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 (rubella) 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 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. Duke retired from NASA in December 1975.
Duke, saluting the U.S. flag on the surface of the Moon, April 21, 1972.
Apollo 16 ( April 16–27, 1972) was launched from John F. Kennedy Space Center and was the fifth crewed lunar landing mission. The crew consisted of John Young as 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 region of the rugged lunar highlands. Young commenced the then-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 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 Ocean splashdown and subsequent recovery by USS Ticonderoga.
Following his NASA retirement, Duke entered the Air Force Reserve and served as Mobilization Augmentee to the Commander, Air Force Basic Military Training Center and to the Commander, USAF Recruiting Service. He graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1978. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1979, and retired in June 1986. Duke has been married to Dorothy Meade Claiborne of Atlanta, Georgia since June 1, 1963. They have two grown sons; Charles M. Duke III (born March 8, 1965) and Thomas C. Duke (born May 1, 1967), and nine grandchildren. He and his wife reside in New Braunfels, Texas. His recreational interests include hunting, fishing, reading, and playing golf.
Since 1978, Duke has been a committed born-again Christian. He wrote in his book that his temper, ego, single-minded devotion to work, and greed had ruined his relationship with his wife and his children, and his marriage teetered on the verge of divorce in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Duke and his wife, who became a Christian before him, both credit religion with making their lives much happier. Duke also stated that his marriage and relationship with his children became considerably better soon after finding religion. He is active in prison ministry.
Duke had an identical twin brother William, a medical doctor who practiced in their hometown of Lancaster, South Carolina, making Charles the first twin to fly in space. William died in 2011.
- NASA Advisory Council, at-large member 1998–2000
- Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, chairman of the board (2011– )
- Air Force Association
- Society of Experimental Test Pilots
- Reserve Officers Association
- USNA Alumni Association
- Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship
- Christian Business Men's Committee
- International Fellowship of Christian Businessmen
- Explorers Club
- National Space Society
- Young Astronaut Council, former director
Awards and honors
In 1973, Duke received an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of South Carolina. He also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Francis Marion University in 1990. Duke was also presented an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from Clemson University in 2012. Other honors include:
- NASA Distinguished Service Medal
- JSC Certificate of Commendation in 1970
- Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with Oak leaf cluster
- Legion of Merit
- Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings
- Society of Experimental Test Pilots' Iven C. Kincheloe Award of 1972
- American Astronautical Society Flight Achievement Award for 1972
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Haley Astronautics Award for 1973
- Fédération Aéronautique Internationale V. M. Komarov Diploma in 1973
- Named South Carolina Man of the Year in 1973
- Presented the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 1975
- Kennesaw State University honorary alumnus 2007
- Airdrie Astronomical Association honorary member 2010
- International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach presented the Sky is the Limit Trophy to Charles Duke in 2018.
- Inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame 2019
Duke was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 1973 and the International Space Hall of Fame in 1983. He was one of 24 Apollo astronauts who were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997. He was also inducted into the Texas Science Hall of Fame in 2000. He was named the Texan of the Year for 2020.
Duke is one of the astronauts featured in the 2007 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?"
In 2018, Duke joined the Back to Space organization as an Astronaut Consultant with the goal of inspiring through film the next generation to go to Mars.
Duke is featured prominently in the BBC World Service Podcast, 13 Minutes to the Moon, released in 2019 to mark 50 years since the Apollo 11 mission.
"Charlie Duke Took Country Music to the Moon"
In 2018, country music duo The Stryker Brothers released the song "Charlie Duke Took Country Music To The Moon," which tells the true story of how Duke brought two audio cassette tapes of country music to play during the Apollo 16 mission. Duke's friend Bill Bailey, a disc jockey at Houston-area country music radio station KIKK, had enlisted several country stars of the time to provide personalized recordings for the astronauts. The tapes were introduced by Merle Haggard, and other artists included Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Buck Owens, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, and Floyd Cramer.
"The Stryker Brothers" was the stage name for a collaboration between Robert Earl Keen and Randy Rogers, but the two initially kept their identities secret, with promotional material claiming that the music originated from two actual brothers who had died in a prison fire. Duke appeared in an online video asserting that he got to know the brothers as children at the home of disc jockey Bailey, and that he gave them a copy of the tapes following his return from the Moon. In reality, Duke met Rogers at an event in New Braunfels, where both men live.
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