An Apollo 16 astronaut reflects on the 50th anniversary of the mission

(ORDO NEWS) — Charlie Duke is part of a tiny brotherhood that is getting smaller still – the people who walked on the moon.

On Wednesday, Duke, 86, visited his Apollo 16 spacecraft at the US Rocket and Space Center to mark the 50th anniversary of his only lunar walk.

Of the 12 American astronauts who walked on the moon, only four survived, and Duke is constantly busy performing. At the time of landing, he was the youngest person to walk on the moon.

Duke says he has vivid memories of the trip, which was the penultimate US mission to land on the moon. His face lit up during the interview as he recalled his first thoughts after exiting the moonship onto the dusty surface.

“I mean, ‘I’m on the moon!’ I can’t believe it. Even today, it’s an exciting thought,” said the North Carolina native.

The late John Young was the first to leave the lander and walk on the Moon with Duke, while Ken Mattingly circled the Moon in a command module nicknamed “Casper”.

Duke said that since the end of the Apollo program, the US has focused on the space shuttle program, the space station and deep space flights, and he doesn’t think NASA can’t get back to the moon.

He is looking forward to NASA’s upcoming mission to the moon using the new Space Launch System rocket that is at the heart of the Artemis program.

The first of the huge rockets is due to go on an uncrewed trip to the moon later this year, and Duke hopes to be able to take part in the first crewed flight in a few years.

“The moon was a really beautiful environment. Deserted, but beautiful at the same time,” he said. “The different contrasts, the mountains we saw. The blackness of space on the surface of the moon and the shades of gray. It was very exciting.”

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