By Sam Peshek, Texas A&M University Marketing & Communications
- Charlie Duke is one of four surviving NASA astronauts to walk on the moon
- Duke presented a pair of $10,000 scholarships during the Community of Scholars event presented by Texas A&M LAUNCH to Aggies studying in STEM fields
- He said that the U.S. should establish a station on the moon to support missions to Mars
When Charlie Duke looks up into the night sky and fixates on the moon, his mind goes back to the week he spent walking on its surface as a part of NASA’s Apollo 16 crew.
On Thursday he described his time on the moon in vivid detail during his visit to Texas A&M University when he presented $10,000 scholarships to two Aggies studying in STEM fields and delivered his “Journey to the Moon” presentation to a packed Rudder Theatre audience of elementary and middle school students from around the state.
The backstories that brought scholarship recipients Ashley Hayden and Ashley Holt and Duke to the Rudder stage that day shared a theme: great things are possible with the support of others.
“There were three of us who sat in that rocket, but the 400,000 people beneath us in that pyramid was lifting us off,” Duke said of the day Apollo 16 launched from Kennedy Space Center in 1972. “If everybody didn’t do their job, you weren’t going to make it. You needed a lot of support.”
A reminder to keep dreaming
Hayden, a biology major, told the audience that support from family and loved ones helped her deal with the loss of her mother and take on challenging research at Texas A&M.
“I want everyone to know here who is struggling through something that you can make it through,” Hayden said to the crowd of students. “If I can make it up here, everyone in this audience can make it up here.”
Holt, a biomedical engineering major, said she went from knowing how to use basic lab equipment to helping discover a new protein, with the support of others and belief in herself.
“I’m incredibly thankful for the mentors that recognized my potential as a researcher and scientist,” Holt said.
Holt also thanked the Astronaut Scholars Foundation for the scholarship that will allow her to continue to pursue her research.
“It’s an honor, an inspiration and a reminder to keep dreaming,” she said.
The event held each year at Texas A&M is a Community of Scholars event presented by Texas A&M LAUNCH.
Journey to the moon
In addition to the Apollo 16 mission, where Duke and two other astronauts collected rock and dust samples, Duke also served in mission control for the first moonwalk of Apollo 11 and the harrowing rescue of Apollo 13. Although he was proud of his contributions to the historic Apollo 11 and 13 missions, it’s his own journey into space that he remembers most fondly.
“I was having so much fun I didn’t want to come back,” Duke said of his seven days on the moon.
He narrated video footage from the moon’s surface which showed him fumbling moon rocks while posing for a camera camera, competing with his fellow astronauts in a high-jump contest and roving around in a car, which was abandoned on the moon.
“If you want an $8 million car with a dead battery, there’s one on the moon,” Duke said.
He also discussed the rough driving conditions.
“There aren’t any roads on the moon, but there isn’t any traffic, either,” he said.
Duke took questions from local media after the event and provided insights on the current state of space travel.
“The focus seems to be moving slowly to return to deep space and moon bases,” Duke said. “I think that’s where we ought to go: build a station on the moon that will allow long-term stays, to develop the systems, to develop the procedures, to develop the ability to repair these systems and be close enough to earth where you get some help from mission control. Then you take the knowledge you built (on the moon) to Mars.”
Media contact: Sam Peshek, 979-845-4680, firstname.lastname@example.org