Duke, Charles Moss, Jr.

October 3, 1935 –

Duke achieved his greatest professional fame by serving as lunar module pilot of Apollo 16 from April 16–27, 1972.

Astronaut, lunar module pilot. Duke was born on October 3, 1935, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He attended Lancaster High School in Lancaster, South Carolina, before graduating valedictorian from the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida. Afterward he attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he was commissioned and received a B.S. degree in naval sciences in 1957. Instead of serving in the U.S. Navy, Duke chose a career in the U.S. Air Force. He began his service at Spence Air Base, Georgia, where he received his primary flight training. He then was a distinguished graduate of basic flight training at Webb Air Force Base, Texas, in 1958. He completed advanced training in F-86L aircraft at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, and once again was named a distinguished graduate. He then served three years as a fighter interceptor pilot with the 526th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. In 1964 Duke received a M.S. degree in aeronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The following year he graduated from the Aerospace Research Pilot School and became an instructor there teaching control systems and flying in the F-101, F-104, and T-33 aircraft.

In April 1966 Duke learned that he was one of nineteen astronauts who had been selected by NASA. As an astronaut he served as member of the support crew for the Apollo 10 flight, CAPCOM (capsule communicator) for Apollo 11 (the first landing on the moon), and as backup lunar module pilot on Apollo 13.

Duke achieved his greatest professional fame by serving as lunar module pilot of Apollo 16 from April 16–27, 1972. He was accompanied on the fifth manned lunar landing mission by John W. Young (spacecraft commander) and Thomas K. Mattingly II (command 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. Duke and Young undertook their record setting lunar surface stay of seventy-one hours, fourteen minutes, by maneuvering the lunar module Orion to a landing on the rough Cayley Plains. In three subsequent excursions onto the lunar surface, they each logged twenty hours, fifteen minutes, in extravehicular activities (EVAs) involving the placement and activation of scientific equipment and experiments, the collection of nearly 213 pounds 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 pounds); the first cosmic-ray detector deployed on lunar surface; the first lunar observatory with a far ultraviolet camera; and the longest in-flight EVA from a command module during transearth coast (one hour, thirteen minutes). Apollo 16 concluded with a Pacific Ocean splashdown and subsequent recovery by the USS Ticonderoga. During the flight Duke logged 265 hours in space and over 21 hours of extra–vehicular activity.

Duke later served as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 17 before retiring from the astronaut program in December 1975 to enter private business. He retired from military service as a brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve, having logged 4,147 hours of flying time, including 3,632 hours in jet aircraft.

Duke received a number of decorations for his service, including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the JSC Certificate of Commendation (1970), the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Force Legion of Merit, Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings, the SETP Iven C. Kincheloe Award of 1972, the AAS Flight Achievement Award for 1972, the AIAA Haley Astronautics Award for 1973, and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale V. M. Komarov Diploma in 1973. He was named South Carolina Man of the Year in 1973, and he received an honorary doctorate of philosophy degree from the University of South Carolina during the same year. He later received an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Francis Marion College in 1990 and was presented the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 1975.

“Biographical Data: Charles Moss Duke, Jr. (Brigadier General, USAF, Ret.) NASA Astronaut (former).” National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Accessed June 18, 2012. http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/duke-cm.html

“Hello, I’m Charlie Duke.” Charlie Duke Enterprises. Accessed June 18, 2012. http://www.charlieduke.net/

South Carolina Hall of Fame. “Col. Charles M. Duke, Jr.” South Carolina ETV. Accessed June 18, 2012. http://www.scetv.org/index.php/sc_hall_of_fame/show/charles_duke/.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Duke, Charles Moss, Jr.
  • Coverage October 3, 1935 –
  • Author
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date December 3, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 2, 2016
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