Apollo astronaut Charles Duke
Photo courtesy of NASA

Iconic Apollo astronaut Charles Duke chatted with Powerjournalist Markos Papadatos about the “Apollo 11- The Immersive Live Show” and his aeronautical career.

On being a part of the Apollo 11- The Immersive Live Show, Duke said, “It’s tremendous. I am impressed with what they’ve done here. It’s fantastic. It’s going to be a great performance. Everybody is very excited. We are looking forward to the grand opening tonight.”

This event is quite special for Duke since it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing (July 20, 1969). “This has been a big anniversary,” he admitted. “Being a part of Mission Control back in the day was a great experience for me. This anniversary is celebrated all over the world.”

Most impressive about The Lunar Dome is the largest touring theatre venue in the world, with 360-degree projections, that seats 1,600 people. “It’s a tremendous building,” he said. “They can see Mission Control, a launch, and landing. The visual effects will be tremendous. It will make you feel like you are there. It is going to be an exciting, emotional, captivating and educational experience. It follows everything from a Mission Control viewpoint, which is rare. Most films show it from the crew standpoint.”

“Mission Control are the unsung heroes of Apollo, and they save the day at every Apollo mission. Without them, our mission would have ended in an abort, and Apollo 13, who did have that explosion, would have never recovered safely. A lot is owed to Mission Control for the success of the Apollo program,” he said.

He praised director Scott Faris and flight director Gerry Griffin for their involvement in this project. “Gerry has been more involved with it than I have,” he said. “I’ve been doing mostly PR for them. As far as the script goes, I read it and made some comments that they incorporated.”

As the Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 16, Duke became the 10th person to walk on the lunar surface in 1972, and at 36 years old, he was the youngest person to ever do so. “That was a great experience and a great honor for me to have been selected to be one of the moonwalkers,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was the youngest until it was over. I was the youngest by four months. I joke about it. I am 83 years old right and I am still the youngest person to walk the moon.”

Astronaut Charles Duke’s family photo on the lunar surface.
Photo courtesy of NASA

While walking on the moon, Duke had left a family photo there, which depicted him, his wife and two sons. “That was a very special moment for me to drop that photo. My boys were young and I tried to get them involved and excited with what their daddy was doing, so we decided to take them all to the moon with the family photograph. It worked out really beautifully,” he said.

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In one point during the mission on the moon, Duke recalled that he decided to engage in the “Moon Olympics,” where he tried to high jump but when he jumped, his center gravity went over backward and he started going backward. “My life support system couldn’t take a real impact, so I rolled to the right, broke my fall and bounced to my back and I was okay. Fortunately, I did the right thing and broke my fall, but it was a scary moment,” he admitted.

For young and aspiring astronauts, he said, “NASA has got a tremendous interest in the younger generation. They had an astronaut selection two years ago in the summer of 2017, where they had 18,000 applicants, and they picked 12 out of them. There is no shortage of interest in the younger generation to get us back into space.”

Digital transformation of space science

On the impact of technology in space science, he said, “The communications have really changed and the experiments have gotten more sophisticated, smaller and more compact, so you can take a lot more along with you. The lunar surface that we are looking at for the next landings, in the next decades, are being designed now, and they are going to have a lot more capabilities than what we had. I am excited about the future.”

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Duke shared that he is also involved with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which gives 50 scholarships a year at universities around the country. “We get a lot of applicants and it’s a very competitive process. It is exciting to see the interest in college kids, high school kids, and even younger kids,” he said.

Throughout his illustrious aeronautical career, Duke was involved in five out of the nine missions on the moon. “I was in Mission Control twice for Apollo 10 and Apollo 11, and I was the 10th man to land on the moon for Apollo 16,” he said. “All of that was very dynamic in my Apollo career. After that, my Air Force career was successful and so was my business career. I also love being a motivational speaker. My life is full and I am not slowing down.”

Duke defined success as “accomplishment of a task with honor, dignity and good results.” “To me, Apollo 13 was a failure as far as the landing goes, but it was a successful mission. We had 99 hours of drama. You can have an outcome that you weren’t expecting and you can still call that a success,” he said.

For more information on Apollo 11- The Immersive Live Show, check out its official website. “I think it will be a very entertaining and emotional evening for the fans. It is going to be an almost perfect reenactment of the Apollo 11 landing. Come to be mesmerized with all the visuals. It is exciting to see this come alive after 50 years,” he said.

To learn more about veteran Apollo astronaut Charles Duke, check out his official website.