Interviewer: My guest today is Charles Duke, one of the few people to have walked on the moon as part of an Apollo mission. Charles, welcome to the studio. Have you always been hooked on space travel?
Charles: Quite frankly, as a kid, it’d never entered my head . There wasn’t even a space programme when I was young . . . so there weren’t any astronauts.
Interviewer: What about science fiction films at the cinema?
Charles: I’d seen them, of course I used to wonder what space travel might be like – but it was never what you might describe as a fascination – if you follow me.
Interviewer: So, how did it all come about?
Charles: It was at the Naval Academy . . .
Interviewer: Not in the Air Force?
Charles: No, but I was a navy pilot. I had fallen in love with planes and nothing else would do. And that gave me the opportunity to start – to get selected for the astronaut programme.
Interviewer: Presumably by then they were talking about putting rockets into space?
Interviewer: And how did you find the training?
Charles: I suppose the lunar surface training in the spacesuit was physically demanding in a way.
Interviewer: Quite uncomfortable, I imagine.
Charles: It’s not what you might expect. Once the spacesuits get inflated, it gets very rigid.
You had to fight to bend your arms and move your fingers inside the gloves.
Interviewer: And how long did you spend inside it?
Charles: Around four to five hours. But actually, the most challenging part was worrying about how to handle the simulator because we needed to know how to land and then take off on the moon .
Interviewer: I don’t think I could have coped with that!
Charles: I’m not sure I did. But if you did something wrong, you were in trouble and we often spent eight hours a day trying to learn what to do!
Interviewer: So how did you feel when you first heard that you were actually going to the moon?
Charles: I suppose you’re expecting me to say ‘exhilarated’. But I knew there were lots of ‘ifs’ – it would happen if they didn’t cancel the programme, if I didn’t get sick and so on. So I stopped doing all the dangerous sports I was involved in .
Interviewer: So you knew you had one chance and if you blew it, you wouldn’t get another?
Charles: That just about sums it up!
Interviewer: And when you eventually got there, what impact did it have on you? Landing or
the moon, I mean!
Charles: When we saw the moon for the first time from about 1500 metres we recognise the landmarks but, as we got closer, we saw that the spot we were going to Ian on was very rough – big rocks and craters – so we panicked a bit. And the more we tried to manoeuvre and the closer we got, the more moon dust we blew out.
Interviewer: But you landed safely?
Charles: Eventually, yeah. We were six hours late. So when we touched down, we erupted with
enthusiasm. We shook hands and hugged each other .
Interviewer: Not an easy feat in spacesuits.
Charles: [laughs] No, indeed. But after that we had to rest for a certain period, we got outside for the very first time.
Interviewer: You must have been terrified.
Charles: We had no sense of fear about stepping off the ladder onto the moon. We just jumped off and started bouncing around like lambs in a field in springtime.
Interviewer: And when you saw the lunar landscape, did it live up to your expectations?
Charles: What struck me most, apart from its awesome attraction, was its desolation . The sky was jet black. You felt as if you could reach out and touch it. There were no stars and the sun was shining all the time.
Interviewer: And what went through your mind at that moment?
Charles: The fact that it was so untouched. The fact that nobody had ever been to that particular spot before kept returning. It was simply breathtaking.
Interviewer: And do you have a favourite memory of the mission?
Charles: Definitely. It was the thing that we did during the last moonwalk. We were about six kilometres or so from the base, and on the edge of a big crater, 100 metres deep. We had to be careful as we walked along the ridge because one slip would have been dangerous. Suddenly we saw this huge rock. It was a long way off, and there are no people or cars to judge distances or give you any sense of scale.
Interviewer: But you managed to get down to it?
Charles: Eventually. It was enormous. The biggest rock anybody had ever touched on the moon. I had a hammer and I hit a chunk of it – and it came off in my hand – a piece the size of a small melon .
Interviewer: A different kind of souvenir! So do you think we should go back? What’s the reason for investing all this time and money in the space race anyway?
Charles: Oh, it’s the prime place for a scientific base…
Speaker 1: I was a hotel receptionist and Lenny Grade, the film producer, came rushing in one night to say he had a very important meeting in the morning. He was quite worked up about it and kept stressing how vital it was that he had an 8 o’clock alarm call. At the time I remember finding him quite patronising, because he felt he must keep repeating his request as if I was an idiot . I was doing an overnight shift and, to cut a long story short, I was having coffee before heading home when there was a commotion by the lift and he came sprinting past swearing. I looked at my watch and it was 9.15 – it had totally slipped my mind to wake him up .
Speaker 2: I used to be a chauffeur ferrying around various stars to events. My most tense experience was the time I took Stan Lane to the premiere of his film. The tension began when the company gave me an address but I ended up on the other side of London , 15 minutes before I was due to pick him up. It was a complete catastrophe. I finally fetched him, then I ended up going through red lights and speeding, while he was panicking about being late and asking to be let out so he could get the tube. He went right over the top actually, as if it was the end of the world , even though I kept telling him we’d make it on time.
Speaker 3: I served the tennis player Tina Sherwood with lots of fruit and vegetables in a shop in Wimbledon during the tennis tournament one year. The players used to come in and buy huge amounts of stuff to keep them going. She bought so much she was paying by credit card. I suppose she thought she didn’t have to sign the slip because she was so famous, but I made her do it . She looked quite taken aback at the time, but after that, whenever I saw her in the street, she’d stop me to ask how I was. I could be wrong but I reckon she realised that, no matter how famous you are, there are still rules that apply to everyone .
Speaker 4: I was the manager of a nightclub and one night this enormous car drew up outside the club with an extremely famous rock star in the back. His two bodyguards came up to the door and asked if they could come in and look around. I let them in, they checked out the club and reported back to him in the car. Then he came over and said that he would like to come in and could I arrange to have a special area cleared for him? As if… I mean, what made him think he could go to a crowded place like that and be kept apart from everyone else [24, 29]?
Speaker 5: I served champagne and dinner at the film star Lena Leonard’s flat once. It was a party for close family and friends and she came to the door wearing no make-up, then disappeared for two hours while we got things ready and came back into the kitchen looking a million dollars. I wandered around her flat pouring champagne for her and her guests. She gave me a very generous tip afterwards, which came as a bit of a shock  because every other time I’d waited on stars they’d turned out to be rather mean. She was quite ordinary – for such a mega-star – and she didn’t seem to feel she had to put on an act or anything, she was just being herself , I guess.
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