Eagle Profile

The tenth man to walk on the moon, Charles M. “Charlie” Duke, Jr. never dreamed he would be a member of such an elite group of Americans when he was growing up in South Carolina. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina on 3 October 1935, Duke was the 1953 valedictorian at the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1957. Accepting a commission in the Air Force, Duke went on to become a distinguished pilot training graduate when he earned his wings at Webb AFB, Texas in May 1959. He then became a fighter pilot, flying F-86s with the 526th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Ramstein AB, Germany.

In June 1962, Duke left operational flying to pursue his goal of becoming a test pilot. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics, writing a thesis on the Apollo guidance system. Graduating from the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California in July 1965, he remained in the desert as an instructor, teaching flight control systems and flying F-101s, F-104s, and T-33s. Selected by NASA for astronaut training in April 1966, Duke served as a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 10 flight in May 1969, and as a backup lunar module pilot for the Apollo 13 and 17 flights. In March 1971, he was selected to be a member of the Apollo 16 crew, along with astronauts John W. Young and Thomas K. Mattingly 11.

As the lunar module pilot, Duke spent over 2000 hours in the simulator, preparing for the mission. After a near perfect launch on 16 April 1972, Duke and Young began their record-setting stay of 71 hours and 14 minutes on the lunar surface by maneuvering the lunar module, Orion, to a landing on the rough Cayley Plains on 20 April. 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. Apollo 16 concluded with a perfect Pacific Ocean splashdown and subsequent recovery by the USS Ticonderoga after 265 hours and 51 minutes in space.

In December 1975, Duke resigned his regular commission, joined the Air Force Reserve, and became a staff engineer for Air Force Systems Command and mobilization augmentee to the Commander, USAF Basic Military Training Center and to the Commander, USAF Recruiting Service. He was promoted to brigadier general in December 1979 and retired in June 1986. In a career spanning 29 years, he logged over 4000 hours, 3600 of which were in jet aircraft. Duke was also Chairman of Texcor Industries, Inc.; Director, Young Astronaut Council; and Chairman, Duke Resources, Inc.

Years Honored:


1992 Lithograph

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After spending a restless night in the lunar module, Orion, Charlie Duke first set foot on the lunar surface on 21 April 1972, the first of three "extravehicular activities " during Apollo 16's mission to the Descartes Highland Plains. Using the moon buggy, Lunar Rover 2, Duke and fellow crewmember, John Young, logged 20 hours and 15 minutes on the surface of the moon. They conducted numerous scientific experiments, collected nearly 213 pounds of rock and soil samples, and evaluated the performance of Lunar Rover 2 while putting it through its paces over the most rugged surface yet encountered on the moon.