Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke works at the lunar rover during one of three moonwalks. He and John Young spent three days on the lunar surface in April 1972, collecting samples that have helped scientists piece together the history of the Moon and Earth. Duke was perhaps the most ebullient of all the moonwalkers, appearing to have a lot of fun while he loped across the lunar surface. [John Young/NASA]
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NASA plans to send astronauts to the Moon later in this decade. They’ll scoop up rocks and dirt, set up experiments, and begin setting up a base camp. And despite the hard work, they’ll probably have a good time doing it.
But it’ll be hard to have as much fun — or be as enthusiastic — as Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke. He and John Young landed on the Moon 50 years ago today.
Duke was making his first trip into space. And he seemed to enjoy every second: bouncing across the surface in a Moon buggy ...
DUKE: ...and we’re — ooik — There it is! There’s Flag! We’re here! You did it! YOUNG: Charlie, you’re hitting my arm. DUKE: Excuse me. YOUNG: You want to wind up in that big crater?
... gathering samples ...
DUKE: Here he comes, folks. He’s got the hammer out. I knew he couldn’t resist. (chuckle) ... Okay, how’s the old heartbeat? MISSION CONTROL: You’re up to about a hundred and forty.
... drilling a hole in the surface ...
DUKE: Okay, are you guys ready? Here we go! Man, that beauty is going right in! MISSION CONTROL: Outstanding!
... or returning to their lander at the end of a long moonwalk ...
DUKE: Hot dog! You did it! ... Home again, home again, jiggety jig! ... Man, Tony, you don’t know how much fun this has been.
During three days on the surface, Young and Duke collected more than 200 pounds of samples, and set up several experiments. They and crewmate Ken Mattingly returned to Earth on April 27th, 1972, after a busy — and apparently fun — trip to the Moon.
Script by Damond Benningfield