Visiting Mars next frontier in space: Ex-astronaut Duke

Jaipur: The next big step in space will be the landing of human beings on Mars, and any Indian can do this, said Charles Duke, the youngest spaceologist to walk on the moon at the age of 36.

Duke, now 83, was in Jaipur on Tuesday to address the students of Gyan Vihar University.

Sharing his experiences, the American astronaut said he along with his two companions had landed on the moon in 1972 via Apollo 16, the 10th manned mission in the US Apollo space programme, and the fifth and penultimate to land on the moon, and the first to land in the lunar highlands.

Duke and stayed on the moon for about 20 hours and 15 minutes.

Talking to students, he said: “I completed my education from MIT and then started working in NASA. I got involved with the Apollo programme from the very beginning. During Apollo 11, I was given the responsibility of the control room and was later selected for Apollo 16.”

Duke, who retired as a Brigadier General in the US army, shared the emotional moments of putting his foot on the moon with students.

He had travelled in a rocket named ‘Saturn’, and was the youngest scientist to visit the moon. Duke said he joined the Mission as a Lunar module pilot in the Apollo 16 campaign. Apollo 16 was a big, and one of the most important scientific initiative being taken on the moon.

“Whenever I recall those thrilling moments, I become emotional,” he said.

He spoke about how his hammer fell on the moon’s surface while collecting rock and soil samples, and how much difficulty he faced to lift it up. Understanding the difference of gravity is not at all easy, he said citing this example.

Duke said he weighed just 27 kg and travelled around 5 km at a speed of 17 km per hour. He left a photo of his family on the moon for remembrance.

“Maintaining body temperature on the moon was a big challenge and I had to make many efforts to save myself,” he said.

On the occasion, university Chairman Sunil Sharma said the conference hall would be named after Charles Duke.