Meeting a Moon Walker

Charlie Duke int he UK October 2012

Charlie Duke in the UK October 2012

Being a lunar geologist pretty much nothing gets better than meeting someone who has walked on the Moon! Several members of the SEAES Isotope Group and I went to see a presentation by Charlie Duke, who was the Lunar Module Pilot of the Apollo 16 mission.  Duke was visiting the UK as part of the Space Lectures tour and speaking in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, UK. As most of the samples I study in the lab happen to have been returned by the Apollo 16 mission his visit presented a unique opportunity to hear from, and meet one of the Moonwalkers.

Apollo 16 Landing Site

Apollo 16 landing site area with geological sampling stations and traverses denoted. Local features are overlain on montage of LROC NAC frames M106777343RE and M106777343LE with original spatial resolution of ~1.10 m/ pixel. Image was taken at a high-sun incidence angle of 28º, which clearly shows the distribution of North and South Ray crater ejecta across the Apollo 16 landing site. Image: NASA/GSFC/ASU and K.Joy (after Joy et al., 2011).

The Apollo 16 mission launched on a Saturn 5 rocket on the 16th April 1972 from Cape Kennedy Florida. Astronauts Commander John Young and Lunar Module Pilot Charles (Charlie) Duke touched down on the lunar surface on the 21st April 1972. Their mission visited the central nearside of the Moon contact between the Descartes Mountains and Cayley Plains Formations (8.59° S, 15.30° E).

The astronauts spent three days on the surface of the Moon, and performed three traverses on foot and using the electric rover. Their travels took them north to the 1 km North Ray Crater and south to Stone Mountain (see map) and, in addition to carrying out a series of science experiments, they brought back just under 100 kg of Moon rock. The mission was designed to investigate the geology and modification history of the lunar highlands, and to determine if the underlying geology was products of volcanism. It was, however, discovered instead that the deposits are impact modified lithologies of the crust (see here for more details). These samples (see also here for specific information) have provided key insights into the formation of ancient lunar crust; the composition, stratigraphy and impact modification of the nearside crust; and the structure and history of the lunar regolith. Our group is studying Apollo 16 samples to better understand the Moon’s impact history.

Charlie Duke, and Natalie Curren and Katherine Joy from the SEAES Isotope Group

Charlie Duke, and Natalie Curren and Katherine Joy from the SEAES Isotope Group. We took a small piece of hot desert lunar meteorite along (in small jar Katherine is holding) to have a Moonwalker and a piece of the Moon in the same shot.

Hearing Charlie Duke remember his experiences walking and driving on the surface of the Moon was made for an unforgettable evening.  He related some great stories about his geology training and putting that training into practice: always collect a sample of every colour – on the Moon that’s easy there are black ones, grey ones and white ones! And recalled that some of some of the samples were particularly tricky to collect and that when in space blowing on your camera does little to clear the dust. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and just hope that I get to meet more Moonwalkers as I continue my career, as meeting someone who has carried out field geology on the Moon is a truly inspirational experience.

Charlie Duke and Mark Nottingham

Charlie Duke and SEAES Isotope Group member Mark Nottingham

For more information about the Apollo 16 mission please see the Apollo 16 Lunar Surface Journal

About Katherine Joy

Hello! I am Katherine Joy. I am part of the University of Manchester Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry group. More details about my research interests can be found at
Gallery | This entry was posted in Events, Space and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Meeting a Moon Walker

  1. Pingback: outReaching the new generation of planetary scientists | Earth & Solar System

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.