The Family that Went to the Moon

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.