The Family that Went to the Moon

by Jason Major on April 24, 2012

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A picture of a photograph: the family photo that Charlie Duke left on the Moon on April 23, 1972. (NASA)

Well, the family photo, anyway.

On April 23, 1972, Apollo 16 astronauts Charlie Duke and John Young embarked on the third and final EVA of the mission, exploring the Descartes Highlands via Lunar Roving Vehicle. During the EVA, before setting up a Solar Wind Collector, Duke placed a small family photo he had brought along onto the lunar surface and snapped a few photos of  it with his Hasselblad film camera. This is one of the photos.

The portrait shows Charlie, his wife Dorothy, and their two sons Charles and Thomas. It looks like they are sitting on a bench in the summertime.

The family photo, gingerly wrapped in clear plastic and slightly crumpled from being stashed in the pocket of a space suit, was left on the Moon. It presumably still sits there today, just inches away from Charlie’s boot print — which, presumably, is also there.

The Duke family photo.

At the time of this writing it’s been exactly 40 years to the day that this photo was taken.

Image: NASA/JSC scan

I came across this image while looking through the Project Apollo Image Archive for some relevant images from the Apollo 16 mission. Amid scans of Hasselblad photos showing lunar samples, experiments and scenes from LRV jaunts, which are all fascinating in their own right, I came across this poignant image and couldn’t resist sharing it. To know that a family photo is resting upon the surface of another world is nothing short of amazing… while the missions to the Moon were a testament to human endeavor, it’s small things like this that remind us of the people that made it all possible.

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Pamela Thompsom April 24, 2012 at 1:18 AM

That is so awesome what a great reminder of who was there in the begining

danangel April 24, 2012 at 2:52 AM

Trash on the Moon! Now we have to go back and clean up the mess!

squidgeny April 24, 2012 at 10:32 AM

The moon’s in need of a good dusting, too

Jeff Boerst April 24, 2012 at 7:50 PM

We should all just giant build space-elevators to carry all of our collective refuse high enough to make it cost effective to then just launch it all at the moon. I suggest all aiming at the forward rotating side so we could actually speed up it’s rotation so that after a few centuries we could evenly cover the entire surface… Then use telescopes to render detail images at various resolutions and see if any of it is reminiscent of Jackson Pollack’s work…

Jet April 26, 2012 at 8:41 PM

I hope you don’t mean this. This is the most ignorant of comments, I’ve seen in a long time on a blog. Speed up the moon’s rotation? We as humans do not have that capability…. regardless if we DID have the techonology to send all of our junk there. I hope that tech never happens. what a shame our planet would have to be in…to suggest sending all of our junk there?

kkt April 24, 2012 at 8:43 PM

They’d be too likely to get hit by meteors. Salt mines would be a better bet.

Steve Rollins April 24, 2012 at 3:09 AM

Wonder how long it will be before someone sees that in person again. Another half-century perhaps?

I don’t imagine the image has lasted.

Kevin Frushour April 24, 2012 at 5:42 AM

Yeah. I’m pretty sure the image is long-faded.

Spartacus Skull Bones April 24, 2012 at 4:18 AM

If at moon surface during the day temperature gets to 100 degrees celsius, this would burn almost at once. Is that plastic burn proof?

Grimbold April 24, 2012 at 5:01 AM

Burning, as we understand it, requires oxygen and there’s none of that on the Moon. There will almost certainly have been significant chemical reactions caused by radiation and heat in the absence of any atmosphere, but I have no idea what that would do to the photo.

Grimbold April 24, 2012 at 5:01 AM

Burning, as we understand it, requires oxygen and there’s none of that on the Moon. There will almost certainly have been significant chemical reactions caused by radiation and heat in the absence of any atmosphere, but I have no idea what that would do to the photo.

NoAstronomer April 24, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Besides what Grimbold said, it would take temperatures much higher than 100C to burn plastic. 100C is the boiling point of water, I don’t see boil-in-the-bag foods bursting into flames.

NoAstronomer April 24, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Besides what Grimbold said, it would take temperatures much higher than 100C to burn plastic. 100C is the boiling point of water, I don’t see boil-in-the-bag foods bursting into flames.

Skipdallas1 April 24, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Of course not! The water would extinguish the flames! :-)

Thomas Houck April 24, 2012 at 4:22 PM

No air no burn…..

Ken Lord April 24, 2012 at 9:39 PM

To quote Phil Plait (and to contradict his DBaD policy) … The Stupid! … It Burns!

Prism2Spectrum April 24, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Scanning Wikipedia entry on Mr Duke’s life, it was interesting to read that after visiting “the surface of another world”, he turned to the spiritual dimension, and became a Christian. His epic Apollo 16 moment must have left a deep impress on his mind — and heart.
(How could any Astronaut — human being — come back from the Moon unchanged, in some profound way). Seeing the “good Earth” suspended in the deepest blackness of unending Space (real time, three dimensionally, living-breathing it), must be, well, an experience beyond words!

What that faded, Sun-blasted humble-little photo represents is more beautiful than anything in the entire Solar System!

DannyNye April 24, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Great idea Charlie Duke. It matters not at all that it might have faded. He did it and took a photo of it. These aren’t trash, they left artifacts for another civilization to find when people go back to the moon in a thousand years or so.

Skipdallas1 April 24, 2012 at 1:38 PM

If he left this photo in that position, it will have by now faded beyond recognition. Due to the sunlight that is unfiltered by any atmosphere. And after an eon or so it will probably be damaged by micro-meteorites too.
What a feeling though: For him to be able to look up to the moon and say,”There is a picture of my family up there, and I put it there!”

richardjjordan April 24, 2012 at 3:59 PM

A “tribute” to what formally made Humans , worthy of exploration and survival !

TimWebb April 24, 2012 at 6:21 PM

http://www.fountainsofthegreatdeep.com/MrLEM.htm

Sorry to spoil the party, but as the subscript to the first photo strongly implies, “Nobody has been to the Moon”. Maybe you missed that, it was done quite subtly. Read the link I have given you, and tell me if YOU would even go to the mall in that thing, let alone 234,000 miles each way to the moon. Note the painted on needle on one of the instruments, and the high-tech on/off switches that were used to land and take off . And did anybody notice that as the LEM lifted off the moon, the camera filming it elevated upwards to follow it ? Who did they leave behind to do the filming ? And where did they stick the Moon Buggy ? Wouldn’t it have destroyed the centre of gravity irrespective of where they put it ?
Please !
The most powerful small computers available back then would just about control Donkey Kong.
The interesting thing here is that this astronot subsequently became a Christian. Christians do not tell lies. Not one of the astronots apart from Ed Mitchell would swear on the Bible that they had been, and Mitchell only did so after making it perfectly clear to the questioner that he is an atheist.
Aldrin is well known for swinging punches at anyone who challenges him to swear that he actually went. Armstrong will not speak about this momentous achievement on behalf of all mankind. I suggest that these gentlemen were hypnotised into believing that they were going, and so they find it psychologically intolerable when anyone puts them on the spot with a question. And yes, hypnotising people is a well-known backroom activity of the various US government agencies.

Bruce Thompson April 24, 2012 at 11:25 PM

Thank you for a link to a most amusing piece of … whatever it was – I would hesitate to call it intelligent, or even original, writing. I have spent the last thirty years reading over and again pretty much every word that was contained in that link.
You wondered who filmed the lift-off from the Moon. The video camera was mounted on the Lunar Rover and was remote-controlled from Mission Control by Ed Fendell. This capability had been included in the Lunar Rover cameras so that the astronauts didn’t have to worry about operating the cameras – they already had enough to do.
As for where did they “stick” the “Moon Buggy”, presumably in the Lunar Module – you didn’t actually specify – the Lunar Module was upgraded for the last three missions to carry the Lunar Rover. Better minds that you or I designed those machines and quite obviously, they did it properly.
Be grateful for for those “small computers available back then”, as the computer you use is directly descended from those built for the Apollo spacecraft and the Lunar Modules. Back then, the average computer filled a room and mission planners knew the Moon landings could never happen unless the space craft carried their own computers, so they had to do something that no one had tried before – make a micro-computer. Even so, the computers they created weighed around 35 kilograms, but that was orders of magnitude smaller than anything else at that time.
Buzz Aldrin punched a loud-mouthed yob on the nose for ambushing him and then calling him, to his face, a “thief, liar and coward”. This particular unsavoury person, whom I will not name because it would only give him undeserved publicity, had lied to Aldrin when setting up the “interview”, claiming that he represented a Japanese education programme. When Aldrin and his daughter arrived, this individual, who is taller and heavier than Aldrin and half his age – so who’s the coward here? – got straight in Aldrin’s face and wouldn’t get out of his way. He got what he deserved and that’s pretty well what the police thought, too, when this snivelling creep took the video to them and tried to lay a complaint.
You haven’t indicated how old you are, Mr Webb, but had you been alive at the time of the Moon landings, you would have been in no doubt that they happened, just as the whole world had no doubt. Apollo gave my generation the defining moment in history and I will always be grateful that I was able to witness it.

TimWebb April 25, 2012 at 6:39 AM

Bruce. We should have a chat about this. But everything you say is simply rote repetition of Standard Mode NASA-speak. You want me to be grateful that these frauds have deceived everybody, yourself included. I am not. I am astonished, but not grateful.
The interview I watched was with Mitchell, altho’ I have seen the Aldrin one too, and was not very impressed. On leaving his house, the interviewer was threatened by an unseen male associate of Mitchell, who asked the former if he should get the FBI to “waste him”, as I recall. Not very illuminating or inspirational. My feeling is that anyone who had done the things claimed would not involve themselves with defending their exploits, let alone – in both cases referred to – becoming thuggish and violent. It does not sit well with supposed professionals. Does it. Indeed it speaks volumes that Mitchell would only swear on the Bible that he had been to the Moon – but I have already referred to this. Personally speaking, I would have patiently explained with sufficient technical information to match the questioner’s understanding, exactly how these things were done, as I am quite sure you would have too. I would not have “blown it ” by descending into an unedifying spectacle of violent behaviour, which as I said, indicates that these individuals have been psychologically “interfered with”, as they say.
You are somewhat dismissive of the amusing link I posted. Written content aside, what do you think of the photographic evidence; ie the painted-on instrument pointer, the “on/off ” nature of the “control panel”, ( ie not a single “variable” controller, or even a CRT ), the Meccano-esque construction of an LEM which is obviously not even airtight, and yet which was alleged to provide shelter for these individuals, on one occasion for three days ? In the deep vacuum of space ? Did they open their visors to eat and drink the tasty meals provided for them ? How did they defaecate, assuming the urgent desire arose, which is always a possibility, even if they were given chemicals to suppress the urge ?
Clearly, there is a great deal more which could be said, but space and time forbid.
Here is another link which you may also have seen, but it includes a couple of interesting points, eg from Herr von Braun, and a reference to the fact that hundreds of so-called Moon Landing tapes are no longer available, having been “lost” during the intervening years.
How convenient.
.
http://davesweb.cnchost.com/Apollo1.html

Bruce Thompson April 26, 2012 at 12:51 AM

“Rote”…

You have a way with words that very likely leaves the lesser intellects with whom you “chat” completely un-mired in admiration at the way you put those words together – particularly when you resort to personal abuse, no matter how obliquely phrased, when you encounter a different world-view to yours.

Everything you have written about the Lunar Module displays your encyclopedic ignorance of the subject and I earnestly recommend that you consult the numerous on-line sources that can help you fill this extensive gap in your knowledge. Not all of these sources are NASA-sponsored, but are written by people who have a clear view of the world.

I have found, over the years, when discussing the Apollo Moon landings with people, such as yourself, who are convinced, against all reason, that the programme was a fraud, that no “patient explanation (sic) with sufficient technical information” will serve to deflect them from their opinions. Now I find myself becoming less and less interested in such “chats”. Nothing that you and your fellow-travellers can say can alter the fact that the Apollo Moon landings happened. It was America’s greatest achievement and showed that when the task is noble, that nation can achieve anything: as long as it keeps its eye on the ball – the American public has a distressingly short attention span.

It would benefit neither of us to have the “chat” you desire, as you are committed to your beliefs, while I am steadfast in my certainty. It looks like you and I are simply going to have to agree to disagree.

No more words from me on this subject.

Jet April 26, 2012 at 8:59 PM

You are a moron! Just because you donot believe, does not mean it did not occur. The techonology to send men to the moon in the 60′s was one of the brighter spots in American history. There are skeptics, just as their are about the existence of God. Even some people believe they will never die, but hey, Bruce they will. Its your choice to believe or not, but that does not make it so. You and those who think like you are so narrow-minded. Who are you to debunked all that occurred? It matters nothing at all, rather you believe in the Moon-landinds or not, WE DO! So, maybe that makes us suckers,,, but what does it make you?

Tom Smith April 27, 2012 at 5:53 PM

Really love your link that goes into great detail about how thin the LEM skin is, how weak the door is, and how ultra high the vacuum is. Tell us, O knowledgeable one, what exactly is required to keep out the insanely super mega uber vacuum of deep space?

morphics April 25, 2012 at 1:08 PM
Jet April 26, 2012 at 9:26 PM

Don’t know what your intentions were by posting this silly, sick site to this story. But, to me, it just shows how far skeptics will go to try to convince one to think or view things as he/she do. I could not fathom a reason for NASA faking all of those missions. What did they really have to gain by faking them? Most of those who don’t believe… I’ve found out, were born after 1969. How ironic?

morphics April 27, 2012 at 12:28 AM

I’m guessing that your comment was aimed at TimWebb and his incoherent rambling website rather than my link to Bad Astronomy. If your comment was aimed at me, then I suggest you properly read what our good friend Phil Plait has to say by re-reading the link I posted.

Wakkierob Loopio April 24, 2012 at 6:45 PM

When are they gonna do the step that involves colonizing other planets that’s the biggy for me! lol
Or is it just another idea or promise that will never happen love the photo!

Robbi Luscombe-Newman April 24, 2012 at 11:38 PM

thats right, first litterbug ha ha…but nice sentiment. ..lots of memorablia to bring back one day..including Rovers and Hasselblad bodies

Matt Doyle April 25, 2012 at 8:38 AM

Get your own family picture on the moon with this project http://www.messagetothemoon.com

Chris Combs April 25, 2012 at 2:01 PM

Nice find, Jason!

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