Duke, Charles

Charles Duke was a United States astronaut and engineer for NASA, as well as a retired USAF Brigadier General. He is also the youngest of twelve people who have walked on the moon. He was born Charles Moss Duke, Jr. on October 3, 1935 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He attended Lancaster High School and graduated as valedictorian from the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1953. He then went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Naval Sciences from the United States Naval Academy in 1957. Duke was commissioned upon his graduation and entered the US Air Force at Spence Air Base, where he began flight training. Duke completed advanced training on the F-86 Sabre aircraft at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. Duke served three years thereafter as a fighter interceptor pilot with the 526th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He has logged 4,147 hours flying time. In 1963, Duke took a quick break from piloting to marry his sweetheart, Dottie Meade Claiborne. Then, Duke decided to further his education, and in 1964 he earned a Master’s degree in Aeronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After graduating from the Aerospace Research Pilot School in September 1965, the same year that his first son, Charles the Third was born, Duke became an instructor teaching control systems and flying in the F-101 Voodoo, F-104 Starfighter, and T-33 Shooting Star aircraft. In April of 1966, he was one of the 19 selected for NASA’s fifth group of astronauts. One year later, Dottie gave birth to their second son, who they named Thomas.

In 1969, Duke was chosen as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10, and then served as capcom for Apollo 11. Duke served as Lunar Module pilot of Apollo 16, which launched on April 16, 1972. He left Earth with fellow astronauts John W. Young and Ken Mattingly. They landed among the lunar Descartes highlands and conducted three EVAs. Duke became the tenth person to walk on the Moon. They returned safely on April 27, 1962 with nearly 213 pounds of rock and soil samples. He logged 265 hours in space, plus 21 hours and 28 minutes of extra vehicular activity.

Charles Duke has received several honors in his life, including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings. Duke also received an honorary doctorate of Humanities from Francis Marion University in 1990. He was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 1973, and then into the Texas Science Hall of Fame in 2000. Duke and Dottie currently live in New Braunfels, Texas. They have two grown sons and nine grandchildren. Duke enjoys hunting, fishing, reading, and playing golf. He is also active in prison ministry.