Charles Duke, Apollo 16 lunar module pilot, is photographed collecting lunar samples at Station No. 1 during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Descartes landing site. (NASA)
Charles Duke watched from Mission Control in Houston when his fellow NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on their historic moon landing on July 20, 1969. Less than three years later, he followed in their footsteps as the Apollo 16 lunar module pilot.
The module carrying the Duke and Apollo 16 Commander John Young reached the lunar surface on April 20, 1972. At 36 years and 201 days old, Duke was the youngest person on the Moon, and the tenth to reach Earth’s natural satellite.
The duke was the CapCom (capsule communicator) for Apollo 11, which, as the link between NASA flight controllers in Houston and Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins in the spacecraft Apollo 11 when they traveled to the Moon.
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Finally see the surface of the moon up close was incredible, Duke told Fox News, during a New York City event hosted by lens maker Zeiss on Friday.
A portrait of Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke. (NASA)
“In the flight, you get the dynamics, you get the visual cues, you wonder what you’re doing,” he said. “But, of course, actually, get on and walk on the Moon was a lot more exciting than the Mission Control of the visuals, the visual stimulation you get. Your ‘wonder, awe, excitement’ – all of these emotions and only in a localized area.”
“Probably the most dynamic part of the mission was the landing,” he added. “You come into an area that you have never seen before and there are a lot of features on the moon’s surface that were visible, visually, when you came in, but we had not yet seen in our photos.”
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Apollo 16 was the only NASA mission to focus on the “lunar highlands,” an area in the Moon-east with hilly and groove area, according to the space agency.
Duke explores the surface of a large lunar boulder during the Apollo 16 mission. (NASA)
The Apollo 16 lunar module, spent 71 hours, 2 minutes and 13 seconds on the surface of the Moon. During their visit, the Duke and Young explored the region in a Lunar Roving Vehicle, performed scientific experiments and collected rock samples.
The pair was part of a very exclusive group of 12 people walked on the Moon.
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Duke told Fox News that he was humbled to be chosen as an astronaut. The pilot of the air force was one of the 19 selected pilots in April 1966 as part of NASA’s fifth group of astronauts.
Charles Duke was the tenth person to walk on the Moon. (NASA)
“You were humiliated that you have selected and honored that you have selected, that the United States is the trust you to fly this multi-million-dollar spacecraft and a job and bring back a number of scientific knowledge and information,” he told Fox News.
Earth’s natural satellite is still a source of fascination.
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There are a number of high-profile unmanned moon missions in the past few months.
Apollo 16 lifts off from Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center on 16 April 1972,
China, for example, recently became the first country to successfully land a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.
Israel’s unmanned Beresheet spacecraft was recently launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a historic mission to the Moon. Beresheet, which is the Hebrew word for ‘beginning’, is the expected landing on the lunar surface on April 11. The spacecraft will also be the first private mission to the Moon.
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The US has also set its sights on the Moon. President Donald Trump wants the AMERICAN astronauts to return to the Moon as a base for future missions to Mars and the administration has cited Moon missions as an important element of the 2019 NASA budget.
File photo Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke responds to a question during a live television interview on Monday, July 20, 2009, at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
(NASA/Paul E. Alers)
In a speech last year, Vice-President Mike Pence discussed plans for a Moon-Orbital Platform-Gateway, a NASA space station that is in the vicinity of the Moon. The chairman of the Rural Area of the Council described the purpose of putting an American on board the Lunar Orbital Platform before the end of 2024. “We are on the cusp of a new golden age of exploration,” Pence said.
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The USA is the only country to place astronauts on the Moon have done for the last time in December 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission.
July 20, 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the famous Apollo 11 moon landing.
Fox News’ Christopher Carbone and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers