State 125

S.C. native made history in space

Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., Lunar Module pilot of the Apollo 16 mission, is photographed collecting lunar samples at Station no. 1 during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity at the Descartes landing site. This picture, looking eastward, was taken by Astronaut John W. Young, commander. Duke is standing at the rim of Plum crater, which is 40 meters in diameter and 10 meters deep. The parked Lunar Roving Vehicle can be seen in the left background.
Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., Lunar Module pilot of the Apollo 16 mission, is photographed collecting lunar samples at Station no. 1 during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity at the Descartes landing site. This picture, looking eastward, was taken by Astronaut John W. Young, commander. Duke is standing at the rim of Plum crater, which is 40 meters in diameter and 10 meters deep. The parked Lunar Roving Vehicle can be seen in the left background. NASA

Charles Duke will go down in the history books as the first South Carolinian who was out of this world, literally.

Duke, born in Charlotte but raised in Lancaster, is the state’s first astronaut, the 10th man – and at age 36 years, 6 months and 18 days – the youngest man to walk on the moon as part of the crew of Apollo 16 in 1972.

A Lancaster High School graduate, Duke went to Admiral Farragut Academy before earning a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy then a master of science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Entering the U.S. Air Force, Duke went through advanced training, serving three years as a fighter interceptor pilot with the 526th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Ramstein Air Base in West Germany.

In April 1966, Duke was selected by NASA for astronaut training. In 1969, he as on the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10 and then served as flight director ( CAPCOM) for Apollo 11, the first landing on the moon. His was the voice of Mission Conrtrol, who’s first words to the Apollo 11 crew after a long landing were, “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!”

The University of South Carolina awarded Duke with an honorary doctorate in 1973, the same year he was named South Carolina Man of the Year and inducted into the S.C. Hall of Fame, according to jsc.nasa.gov. He retired from NASA in 1975.

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