He may be the youngest person to ever walk on the moon, but that doesn’t mean that astronaut Charles Duke has his head in the stars when it comes to remembering his South Carolina roots.
Although born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Duke’s family moved to South Carolina when he was around 10 or 11 and attended high school in Lancaster. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1957, Duke immediately became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force and later earned a master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT. In 1966 he applied to the Apollo program, and eventually became a part of NASA’s fifth group of astronauts.
On April 20, 1972, Charles Duke took his first steps on the moon as part of the Apollo 16 mission. He was only 36-years-old, making him the youngest moon walker on earth. It’s a record that he still holds. Less than a year later, Duke also became the first inductee into the newly established South Carolina Hall of Fame, leaving his own moon boot footprints in cement in front of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
“Moonprints” are easily recognizable by their wide soles and straight, thick ribs, and Duke’s look much like they did 50 years ago, thanks to mild weather and that they’re a bit off the beaten path. Along with the prints, there’s a plaque just beneath them reads: “These are the footprints of Astronaut Colonel Charles M. Duke, Jr., a native of South Carolina, who walked on the moon April 20, 1972, and the first inductee to the South Carolina Hall of Fame at its dedication on February 14, 1973.”
Duke was the 10th out of 12 men to walk on the moon during the Apollo program’s six missions (which took place between July 1969 and December 1972), and spent 71 hours on its surface as a lunar module pilot of Apollo 16. While there, he collected a record 210 pounds of lunar rock samplings.
Another fun fact: During that same mission, Duke left a photo of himself, his wife, and his two sons on the moon’s surface, and it’s still there today.
Know Before You Go
Duke’s moon prints sit in the plaza in front of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Just look for the circle of flagpoles nearby. While stepping into the prints is not encouraged, feel free to snap as many pics as you like.
While here, you can also pay a visit to the South Carolina Hall of Fame, which is located inside the convention center. Along with Duke, other famous inductees like musician Darius Rucker, state historian Mary Chevillette Simms Oliphant, and jazz trumpeter and band leader, John Birks “Dizzy Gillespie.”