HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – 50 years ago Wednesday, Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charlie Duke landed on the surface of the moon. To celebrate that anniversary Duke took the time to speak with children from across the south at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (USSRC).

Official Apollo 16 crew photo with Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly, Commander John Young, and Lunar Modular Pilot Charlie Duke (Photo: NASA)

Charlie Duke has an impressive NASA resume, working support crew for five of the nine Apollo missions to the moon. He was in the role of CAPCOM (the person in charge of talking to those in space) in the missions control room for Apollo 11 when Neil Armstong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

He also served on the backup crew for Apollo 13 and was very frank about being the reason Ken Mattingly was replaced with Jack Swaggert as command module pilot.

“My three-year-old, Tom, had gotten the measles. Everyone but Mattingly had them before,” Duke explained. “So three days before liftoff they switched them.”

Apollo 13 would later have one of their capsule’s oxygen tanks explode on the way to the moon, Duke worked in a lunar module simulator to help bring the three astronauts on that mission home safely. That simulator is located at the Space and Rocket Center.

The Apollo 16 capsule, Casper, is also housed at the USSRC. The three astronauts launched into space inside it and the capsule is the only piece of flight hardware that returned to Earth after the moon mission that lasted 11 days.

Duke spoke with students about what it was like 50 years ago to launch into space aboard a Saturn V rocket. He recalled how shaky the ride was and that he thought he might have fallen out of his seat if he hadn’t been strapped in so tight.

“I was nervous. After the flight I asked the doctor what my heartbeat had been at liftoff, he told me 140. Then I asked him what John Young’s had been, he told me John’s had been steady at 70. He was a very cool dude,” Duke told students.

When asked what his favorite part of the mission was he described landing on the Moon and completing all of the steps was a dynamic task. He also told students his thoughts when he was first able to walk on the moon’s surface.

“One of awe, wonder, excitement, adventure. All of those kinds of feelings,” he explained.

Duke also spoke about his spacewalks on the lunar surface. How he and John Young would travel around on the lunar rover but they had to be careful of avoiding crater rims for a fear of falling in and not being able to get out.

Charlie Duke collecting samples on the rim of Plum Crater (Photo: NASA)

“A crater could be about 40 feet deep and we didn’t have a rescue rope,” he explained. “So if you didn’t want to stay on the moon permanently you would give them a wide berth.”

Young and Duke spent almost three days on the moon before redocking with Mattingly in lunar orbit and making the journey home. Duke said they landed so close to the aircraft carrier assigned as their recovery ship that they could see the helicopters circling their landing site on April 27, 1972.

When asked about the Artemis program Duke said he was hopeful that things would work out. He brought up how his rocket rolled out to the pad in January for a March launch but due to some mechanical issues didn’t actually launch until April.

He added it was just part of going to space.

Duke only flew in space once but said that if you’re only going to do something once, walking on the moon was a great thing to do.