Astronauts get some serious training, and generally they behave in a serious manner. But sometimes … well, let’s turn the clock back to Apollo 16 in 1972:

The story begins with [lunar module pilot Charlie] Duke and mission commander John Young having just a few moments left on the Moon’s surface before needing to retreat back to the lunar module. Not wanting to waste the precious minutes on another world, Duke decided to engage in what he called the “Moon Olympics,” performing feats that would be impossible back on Earth.

School kids know this, or at least used to know this: whatever you weighed on Earth, it’s reduced by about five sixths on the Moon.

Duke, who admits he was “horsing around,” did his best to perform a high jump, launching himself several feet off the lunar surface thanks to the dramatically reduced gravity. Unfortunately, the weight of his suit and life support system strapped to his back proved too much to handle, and he crashed onto his back — and the vital systems in his backpack — at a potentially dangerous angle.

“The backpack weighed as much as I did. So I went over backwards,” Duke explained. “It’s a fiberglass shell, and it contained all your life-support systems. If it broke, I was dead.”

Young eventually helped Duke to his feet, and the shaken astronaut spent the next several seconds listening closely to see if he had broken any of the pumps or other mechanisms that were chugging along inside his backpack to keep him alive. He didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary, and no hissing that would indicate a tear in his space suit, but he made sure to stay grounded for his remaining moments on the Moon.

And you know, if I’d pulled a stunt like that at age 37, I’d probably wait until I was 83 to admit to it.

1 comment

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