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Author: De'Sha Gragg

Apollo to Artemis | The 50th Anniversary of Apollo 16

What a night! After two years of COVID and hitting pause on different engagements, the U.S. Space & Rocket
Center hosted its first internal event: Apollo to Artemis | The 50th Anniversary of Apollo 16. This event that was held on April 20th,
allowed us to not only reflect on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 16 and all the incredible
accomplishments that it had, but also look ahead with excitement at the Artemis Program! The evening
was filled with joy as just under 400 guests wore their black-tie-optional attire and celebrated together in the Davidson Center
under the Saturn V.

Special guest speakers included Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center: Jody Singer, Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development:  James Free and Apollo 16 Astronaut:
Charlie Duke.


The Man of the Hour

Charlie Duke made his grand entrance on our custom Polaris Rover that resembles the one he rode on
the moon. As he spoke to the audience, he shared inspirational words on his experience 50 years ago next to the
“Casper” Capsule that took him took him and his crew mates to the moon and returned them safely to


Brig Gen, USAF, Ret. Duke on the Polaris Rover


Mr. Duke concluded his speech with a quote from Dr. Seuss: “In the places I go there are things that I
see. That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z. I’m telling you this ’cause you’re one of my
friends. My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!“ He explained that this quote
reminded him of the space program: When one space program ends, another one begins. It is
our role to continue to inspire the next generation to keep exploring.


Plans for Future Exploration

Jody Singer and James Free spoke on our exciting goals, as we begin to look ahead and prepare
to return to the moon through the Artemis Program. She shared an update on the SLS Rocket
and how it is now preparing for its wet launch. Mr. Free spoke on the mission updates and the
expected timeframes for each of the mission objectives of the program.


Jody Singer, Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
James Free, Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development


As the evening came to a close, there was a sense of gratitude, joy, and pure inspiration from
each guest in attendance. The impact of Apollo will forever be an inspiration for generations to
come. We look forward to looking back 50 years from now on not only the accomplishments of
Apollo, but also celebrating the victories of the Artemis Program.

My Day with a Moon Man | Charlie Duke’s Visit to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

On Wednesday, April 20, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 16. On that day, fifty years ago, Astronauts Charlie Duke and John Young successfully landed their lunar module on the moon, while Ken Mattingly orbited the moon in the command module. In honor of this mission, we held the Apollo to Artemis dinner underneath the Saturn V in The Davidson Center for Space Exploration. Brig. Gen. Charlie Duke was our guest of honor at the event, and it was an honor to have spent time with him and his wife, Dotty, during their trip to Huntsville.
Brig Gen, USAF, Ret. Charlie Duke in front of the Casper Capsule used in the Apollo 16 mission
My time with the Dukes was nothing short of amazing. I enjoyed everything from picking them up at the airport when they arrived in town, to hearing all of Charlie’s stories from his mission. I was just over the moon (pun intended) with joy the entire time they were here. I had the honor of introducing Charlie to about 100 Space Camp trainees, which I was very nervous about. Dotty being the sweet person she is, grabbed my hands and began praying for peace and confidence over me. A moment I will NEVER forget.

The Main Event: Celebrating Apollo 16

Throughout the rest of the day, Charlie had a few speaking engagements with local media groups and photo sessions. The Apollo 16 capsule ‘Casper’ displayed at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center was the perfect back drop. Then it was time for the big dinner. When I picked Charlie and Dotty up at their hotel, they were dressed to the nine’s and looked so dapper. Charlie showed off his Texas pride with a state flag bow tie and cummerbund. He looked amazing! The dinner turned out to be an amazing event. It highlighted the accomplishments of the Apollo program while discussing the plans for the next Moon program, Artemis.
Charlie Duke and I looking dapper at the 50th Anniversary Dinner for the Apollo 16 mission
My time with Charlie and Dotty and their family was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I know I have lifelong friends that came from this experience and stories to tell for many years to come!