One Second to Panic

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Sketch completed 8 March 2003
Drawing Copyright by Ulrich Lotzmann. All rights reserved.
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After John Young and Charlie Duke got back to the LM at the end of Apollo 16 EVA-3, John got playful and started jumping up and down.
170:21:44 Young: We were gonna do a bunch of exercises that we had made up as the Lunar Olympics to show you what a guy could do on the Moon with a backpack on, but...

170:21:57 England: For a 380-pound guy, that's pretty good.

170:22:01 Young: They threw that out. Yeah, I jump flat-footed straight in the air, 300...

Charlie later wrote: "I decided to join in and made a big push off the moon, getting about four feet high."
170:22:08 Duke: About 4 feet. Wow!
"But as I straightened up, the weight of my backpack pulled me over backward. Now I was coming down on my back. I tried to correct myself but couldn't, and as my heart filled with fear I fell the four feet, hitting hard - right on my backpack. Panic! The thought that I'd die raced across my mind."
170:22:12 Duke: That ain't any fun, is it?

170:22:14 Young: Charlie!

170:22:15 Duke: That ain't any fun, is it?

170:22:17 Young: That ain't very smart.

170:22:18 Duke: That ain't very smart. Well, I'm sorry about that.

"It was the only time in our whole lunar stay that I had a real moment of panic and thought I had killed myself. The suit and backpack weren't designed to support a four-foot fall. Had the backpack broken or the suit split open, I would have lost all my air. A rapid decompression, or as one friend called it, a high-altitude hiss-out, and I would have been dead instantly! Fortunately, everything held together...I was pretty subdued the rest of the EVA."

Adapted from Moonwalker by Charlie and Dotty Duke, Oliver-Nelson Books, Nashville, 1990.

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