Moonwalker Charles Duke’s Rare Distinction

On April 21, 1972, Charlotte-born Charles M. Duke became the youngest man to walk on the moon at age 36.

After graduating and receiving a commission from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1957, Duke embarked on a career in the Air Force as a pilot. His dedication to aeronautics and advanced education at MIT made him an ideal candidate for NASA, which selected him and 18 others in April 1966 to form Astronaut Group Five.

Before visiting space himself, Duke served as the capsule communicator for the Apollo 11 crew, the first crew to land on the moon. The Earth-based capsule communicator’s job was to keep constant contact with the crew in space.

During the Apollo 16 mission, Duke was the lunar module pilot alongside mission commander John Young and command module pilot Thomas K. Mattingly. On April 21, Duke and Young stepped out onto the lunar surface, becoming two of only 12 people ever to walk on the moon. They spent 71 hours in the Descartes Highlands, a rugged region of the moon.

In just over 20 hours of moonwalks, the pair carefully surveyed the moon’s surface, collected samples and deployed scientific equipment. Duke was one of nine North Carolina-born astronauts.