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Paintings of Charlie Duke by Apollo 12 Astronaut Alan Bean


Small Town South Carolina Boy
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Astronaut Charlie Duke stands and salutes. It is the high point of a distinguished military career.

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 3, 1935, Charlie grew up in Lancaster, South Carolina. He attended and graduated valedictorian from the Admiral Academy, St. Petersburg, Florida. The next four years were spent at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he found out he liked airplanes better than boats. As a consequence, he elected upon graduation to be commissioned in the Air Force rather than the Navy and began pilot training. Charlie was a natural, right from the start, a distinguished graduate from basic and again from advanced flying training. He became a superb fighter pilot and excellent astronaut.

Here he is on the plains of Descartes. With his Apollo 16 partner, John Young, they have been the first to inspect, survey and sample materials and surface features in the Descartes region of the rugged lunar highlands. They spent 71 hours on the Moon, during which time they performed three excursions for a total of 20 hours of moonwalking each.

Charlie stands almost 6 feet and is still rail thin. He is now a retired Brigadier General, United States Air Force Reserve. Charlie and his wife, Dotty, divide their time between family and a worldwide speaking ministry about their personal beliefs in Christ. Charlie said recently, "My zest for life is greater than ever before. I have enlisted in the Lord's army. I am in his service."


Painting Completed 1992
18 x 14 1/8 inches, Textured Acrylic on Aircraft Board


On The Rim
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Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charlie Duke have just arrived on the rim of North Ray Crater. John reported, "As we climbed the rim to North Ray, it was really a steep slope going right up to the edge of the rim. Of course, the old rover didn't notice; it just went right up." Charlie continued, "The slope must be on the order of 20 degrees. You don't realize it 'til you get off and turn around." As they looked around they could see that the rim was populated with rocks in all sizes and shapes. These rocks had been thrown up and out when a large object impacted the Moon's surface over three billion years ago. The resulting hole is North Ray Crater.

I have painted John on the left selecting tools for the traverse while Charlie is removing the Hasselblad camera with the 500-millimeter telephoto lens from beneath the seat. Charlie would later report, "we did take the 500-mm photos of the interior of the crater. I couldn't see the bottom and I wasn't going to get close enough to see in because there was no way I could have gotten out if I had fallen in."

John agreed, "now I tell you, I can't see the bottom of it, and I'm just as close to the edge as I'm going to get." He laughed, "that's the truth."

North Ray was the largest crater, 300 feet in diameter, and deepest crater, who knows how deep, directly explored in the Apollo Program.


Painting Completed 1986
16 x 24 inches, Acrylic on Masonite


Soil Scientist - Maximum Push

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Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke is a long way from his hometown of Lancaster, South Carolina. Even though that is Stone Mountain in the background, he's not in Georgia either. I have painted him giving a maximum push to his self-recording penetrometer. In fact, in doing so, he is leaning precariously to his left. More about this later.

The penetrometer consists of a metal shaft with a precisely designed cone and movable reference plate on one end and a recording drum on the other. As Charlie pushes in on the drum end, the cone and shaft penetrate the lunar soil, recording the force and the depth. The recorder will be brought back to Earth to better understand the mechanical properties of the lunar soil.

Mechanical properties, a most important one being bearing strength, are studied for both engineering and scientific reasons. Future design of spacecraft, surface vehicles and habitats will be based, in part, on these properties of the lunar soil.

Charlie would later say, "The penetrometer worked as advertised, but I couldn't apply a steady force. I'd start leaning on it and lose my balance. I tried two or three little techniques, and every time it worked the same way."

But Charlie's maximum push is not without complications. He will shortly lose his balance and fall to the lunar surface. But not to worry! Except for getting a little dusty, Charlie will be able to do a simple push up to his knees, then a quick knee hop back to his feet.


Painting Completed 1993
15 x 23 inches, Acrylic on Aircraft Plywood


All paintings  and descriptions on this page are © by Alan L. Bean and are reprinted with his permission.

You can see his complete works at
The Alan Bean Gallery


Study for
Soil Scientist - Maximum Push
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Study Completed 2001
18 1/8 x 12 1/8 inches
Textured Acrylic on Aircraft Board



Charlie Duke At Maximum Moonspeed
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Apollo 16 Astronaut Charles Duke is moving at his maximum foot speed over the moon and he will be doing that a lot during the next three days. Even though he and Astronaut John Young parked their electrically powered rover nearby, they will be using their leg power for the many short excursions that are required to thoroughly investigate and document an exploration site, making the most of every minute of the limited and unbelievably costly lunar surface exploration. Time requires rapid movement between exploration sites before any observations can be made and samples can be photographed and collected.

 Each exploration site has been carefully chosen by a team of the "Best and Brightest" of lunar exploration specialists back on planet Earth - the same team that proposed that Apollo 16 land in the Descartes Region of the Moon, so these specific sites could be investigated. The team members felt that these sites presented the most fertile opportunity to answer key questions of why the Moon is as it is now and why and how did it get that way? Of course, the fundamental purpose is to allow us to better understand our planet Earth and how we got this way.

"Hey, John! I'm going to run on out and look at some of those angular ones out there." "Tony", Charlie said to Capcom Tony England in Mission Control, "Those lineations are definitely  due to the shadows on the loose regolith". Tony replied, "Charlie, we are going to have to hustle you on pretty soon so you better grab those angular rocks".

At much more than a million dollars a minute, John and Charlie have to keep moving.


Painting Completed 2010
10 x 15 inches
Textured Acrylic on Aircraft Board


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