Hi, I’m Charlie Duke, a veteran NASA astronaut. Ask me anything. I’ve served on five different Apollo missions. I’m also the youngest person to walk on the moon. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, I’m reminded of my time as CAPCOM for Apollo 11, as well as an astronaut support crew member for Apollo 10, backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 13 and 17, as well as the lunar module pilot for Apollo mission 16 – when I had the chance to walk on the moon.

Also, I’ve published the book “Moonwalker: The True Story of an Astronaut Who Found that the Moon Wasn't High Enough to Satisfy His Desire for Success,” which discusses my life as an astronaut, the experiences of Apollo 11 and the difficulties I’ve faced.

I’ll be taking your questions for 30 minutes starting at about 10:30 a.m. ET today, July 16, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch.

Proof it's me: https://twitter.com/ExploreSpaceKSC/status/1149048460102033408


Edit: We are live NOW at 10:18 a.m. EDT.

Edit: We are signing off now at 10:50 a.m. Thanks for all of your insightful questions!

Comments: 1280 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

GoodLordChokeAnABomb1039 karma

Where is the second most remarkable place you've ever walked?

KSCVC1022 karma

The second most remarkable place I've ever walked is up on the slope of Mount Kilauea.

Allittle1970575 karma

Charlie, I had the pleasure to sit and talk with you at a college luncheon about 35 years ago. I remember discussing your ride on the lunar rover. Anything you can share about your off-roading experience?

KSCVC589 karma

It was very bouncy. The Moon is rough and the suspension system on the rover is accommodating to that. I'm glad I had my seatbelt on! It was a great ride!

vaporicer1463 karma

What was your first thought when stepping onto the moon?

KSCVC757 karma

Excitement! I thought "I'm on the Moon! Finally, here I am." I couldn't wait to get to work! My thought was "I made it."

C-O-N267 karma

I have a bit of a technical question that I've always wondered about. How did you sleep on the moon? Was there enough room to lay down on the floor of the LEM or were there hammocks or something that you would hang up?

KSCVC495 karma

We had hammocks that we attached to the side of the Lunar Module. My hammock was about six inches off the floor. It went right-left across the floor. John Young had a hammock that connected above me. We took off our suits, but it was chilly inside to me! First night was exciting, but after that, we were tired after a long day of work!

xXYoProMamaXx209 karma

What was the scariest part of the missions?

KSCVC451 karma

The scariest part was when we were going to do the high jump on the Moon -- in honor of the Olympics happening on Earth. When I jumped up, I fell over on my back and the backpack obviously wasn't designed for that. I landed on my back, and my heart was pounding!

But-WhyThough153 karma

What was your path of education that lead you to where you are now?

KSCVC351 karma

I was at the Naval academy -- back then you could go in the Air Force. I joined the Air Force and became a fighter pilot, served in Germany for three years. Then I got a degree in Naval Engineering, Masters Degree from MIT in astronautics and aeronautics. Apollo My thesis was on Guidance and Navigation Systems. I met some astronauts who inspired me to go to test pilot school. Then NASA has another selection in 1965 and was selected in April 1966. My background is in engineering.

shopdog126 karma

Hey Charlie, if a Mars trip had come up during the 70s (either fly by or landing) would you have gone on it?

KSCVC172 karma

Yes, I would've!

redragon987119 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA firstly.

What are the most important qualities you think a person wanting to be an astronaut should try to hone in themselves?

KSCVC211 karma

I think you have to have a purpose. You need dedication to the goal, to your job. Focus on your task. Discipline - you have to discipline yourself. Work ethic -- willing to sacrifice your time for the mission.

KSCVC214 karma

A sense of humor is also important!

squidballz113 karma

What is reentry to the earths atmosphere like? Is it really loud and violent?

KSCVC250 karma

There was hardly any noise -- not very shaky, but it looked like a brilliant fireball outside! It was spectacular. It was like sitting inside of a furnace - comfy on the inside.

ThatOneEnemy112 karma

What did you do on the journey to entertain yourselves?

KSCVC286 karma

We listened to music! We had classical music and a tape recorder that we shared. Everyone had two cassettes. I love country music so I had two hours worth to listen to. One popular country music star at the time was Dolly Parton and she did a whole show just for us! We listened to these tapes over and over again!

bradtheapple92 karma

Hello Mr. Duke,

What is one thing you learned about yourself while carrying out the mission?

KSCVC140 karma

One thing I learned is that I needed to stay focus on my training when I was performing. You couldn't let your mind wander.

Pixel2_Bro66 karma

What was the most fun thing you did on the moon?

KSCVC175 karma

Riding the Lunar Module was the most exciting part! I was the navigator -- and we set the Moon speed record. It was a sporty ride.

Zesty__9665 karma

What is the view like from on the moon? On a documentary I watched last night, the astronauts described the view as pitch black. Could you not see stars/the earth whilst on the moon?

Thank you!

KSCVC140 karma

The Earth was clearly visible. If you tried to look up, you just saw your helmet. The sky was black because the sun is shining and because there is no atmosphere on the Moon.

belgian_here64 karma

What do you think of space tourism? What is even considered 50 years ago?

KSCVC125 karma

I think space tourism is going to be a great asset to put space back on the mind of the public. Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin -- all those thinking about it, it's going to be really exciting!

PM_me_your_sexyness62 karma

What was one of the more exciting or interesting experiments that you conducted on the moon?

KSCVC116 karma

We had a penetrometer to test the bearing strength of the Moon. We had different tips to put on this and we pushed down to see how far you could push it into the Moon. That was my job mostly.

LIyre53 karma

If you were stranded on the island from Cast Away(without Tom Hanks, unfortunately), what piece of gear from the Apollo missions would you bring to try and survive?

KSCVC105 karma

We had a survival kit -- I would pick that! It has water, food, medicines, etc. and it was designed for three guys for three days. I would also bring shoes.

MILE01351 karma

What exactly did being spacecraft communicator entail as far as responsibilities and tasks?

KSCVC126 karma

You are the link between the crew and the flight control team. No one else can talk to the team except the CAPCOM. Very responsible job - you need to listen with one ear from the flight control team and able to share with the team in a way the team would understand. It is a very important job.

awks-orcs50 karma

Good morning. What is the best piece of advise you could give to anyone??

KSCVC146 karma

I think to choose a career path that you think will be satisfying to you. Keep your antennas up and be alert to nudges that may come your way that tell you where to walk in life. Be alert to opportunities.

BecauseYess38 karma

How did walking on the moon affect your perspective on life?

KSCVC99 karma

IT was an adventure. It wasn't spiritual or philosophical, you don't have time to ponder the origins of life!

Phantomilian32 karma

Hello. Do you ever have dreams (not like aspirations. The kind when you sleep) about being back on the moon? Any of them notable you'd like to share?

KSCVC63 karma

Not since I've gotten back -- I'm not really a dreamer so I don't recall any dreams I had when I came back. I had a strange dream before I went though!

Seanshotfirst25 karma

Given the chance, would you go back and visit the moon again? Why or why not?

KSCVC54 karma

I would! After we got back, we volunteered at the backup crew for Apollo 17 -- just in case they got sick.

WayneKent9322 karma

What was your favorite memory during your experience at NASA?

KSCVC48 karma

I think the most significant memory was landing on the Moon. It was very dynamic with lots of activity in the cockpit. We were in an area with extreme detail we had never seen before -- we were seeing a lot that we hadn't seen before. Very dynamic and had to make quick decisions.