How an Omega Speedmaster saved astronaut Charles Duke's life on the moon

How an Omega Speedmaster saved astronaut Charles Duke's life on the moon

Charles Duke had been on the Moon almost three days when he thought he’d killed himself. Wearing Omega Speedmaster watches, Duke and his fellow Apollo 16 astronaut Commander John Young had decided to make their last moments on the lunar surface uniquely memorable, and given this was 1972 and an Olympic year, they’d come up the “Moon Olympics”.

These would begin with their version of the high jump and a record attempt – how high could they leap in one sixth gravity? Even suited up, on the Moon Duke only weighed around 30kg. His attempt was short-lived. When he jumped, he overbalanced and began tumbling backwards. “It was a moment of fear,” he says, his memories of half a century ago still fresh. “But fear is not a bad emotion if you don’t panic. If you respond with training and discipline, fear can get you motivated. And that’s what happened.”

He goes on: “I had this thought: roll right. So I landed on my right hand and leg, and that was just enough cushion not to break the backpack – and the life support system.” Footage shows Duke disappearing behind some apparatus as he falls, his commentary cut short as he anticipates the worst. It never came. Duke was chastened, Mission Control was livid, and the Moon Olympics ended before the first round of the first event had been completed.

Charles Duke on the Moon

Space Frontiers

Fifty years may have passed, but Duke, who is in London as an ambassador for the Swiss watch company Omega and to mark the 50-year anniversary of Apollo 16, recalls it with great relish, almost as if it were yesterday. I can tell he’s dined out on his Olympic-sized misstep before, and the memory, black and white to the rest of us, flows from him in vivid technicolour.

 

 

Source Credit: This article originally appeared on GQ Magazine by Robin Swithinbank. Read the original article - https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/watches/article/charles-duke-omega-speedmaster-moonwatch