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State Museum exhibit explores career of Charles Duke, the youngest person to walk on the moon

Back in 1972, South Carolina’s own Charles Duke became the youngest person to walk on the moon’s surface.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Back in 1972, South Carolina’s own Charles Duke became the youngest person to walk on the moon’s surface. Fast forward to today, and Duke still holds that title. His career began long before 1972, though.

David Dickson is the public relations manager at the South Carolina State Museum. He spoke about Duke's earlier career: “Before he made it to the moon, he was CAPCOM. Essentially, the voice that those astronauts heard as they were landing on the moon during Apollo 11. He has a great southern drawl, it’s a comforting southern drawl that they really relied on to be able to land on the moon the first time with Apollo 11.”

The Apollo 16 mission was heavily focused on scientific exploration and research. 

“It traveled to a different part of the moon’s surface that previously we hadn’t explored before,” said Dickson.

Apollo 16 was also the first mission to feature the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), a four-wheeled electric vehicle. At the State Museum, you can find a replica of the LVR that Duke piloted during his mission on the moon. 

Born in Lancaster, South Carolina, Charles Duke is a proud South Carolinian. And in true fashion, Duke requested that grits be on the menu for the Apollo 16 mission.

Dickson says, “So, they had to specifically make a special kind of grits that could be eaten in zero gravity. Apparently, it took a couple of times, but on the way to the moon and back, he had grits. Becoming the first person in space to eat grits.”

The State Museum’s exhibit offers a unique perspective on the Apollo program and Duke's role as an astronaut. Visitors can explore a remarkable collection of artifacts, including his space suit, personal items, and even lunar samples brought back from the Apollo 16 mission.

Dickson added, "We are trying to really build up that excitement again. Not only to learn about Charles Duke’s story but to hopefully inspire the next generation of South Carolinians to help us travel to the moon and beyond. But also to shine a light on the fact that there are so many accomplishments in the science and technology sector from South Carolina."

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