The Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion, awaits the return of astronauts John Young and Charles Duke as they complete a long day of exploration in their lunar rover. Young and Duke landed in the Moon's Descartes region on April 20, 1972. They conducted three long moonwalks over three days before returning to lunar orbit to join crewmate Ken Mattingly for the ride back to Earth. The tall panel to the left of the American flag collected bits of the solar wind. [NASA]
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DUKE: Aha! Man, it sure ain’t flat John. Wow! There’s that ridge to the north. YOUNG: Yep, it sure is. DUKE: All we gotta do is jump out of the hatch and we’ve got plenty of rocks.
Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charles Duke had good reason to be excited. After a glitch with their ride home caused a harrowing six-hour delay, they’d just landed on the Moon, on the night of April 20th, 1972.
Young piloted their Lunar Module, Orion, to a touchdown in the jumbled lunar highlands, in a region known as Descartes. The earlier Apollo missions had landed in smoother regions, so this gave scientists a chance to look at a part of the Moon with a different geologic history.
The explorers set up several experiments, and they had a blast on a ride that few others have ever experienced -- bouncing along in a lunar rover. It carried them to craters, giant boulders, and other features -- places with names like North Ray, Spook, and Flag.
DUKE: Okay, man, we can just go babe. I’m really cinched into this moose. YOUNG: I don’t know, with these holes, that we ought to do that or not. DUKE: This seatbelt is great. Eeek. There it is -- there’s Flag! We’re here! You did it!
Young and Duke spent three days on the Moon. They gathered more than 200 pounds of rock and soil, and the instruments they left behind continued to work for months -- helping scientists piece together the story of our satellite world. [DUKE: Hot dog -- you did it!]
Young and Duke also set up an instrument to look beyond the Moon -- the first lunar telescope. We’ll have more about that on Monday.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012