Apollo astronaut visits Irving, hoping to go “Back to Space”

IRVING -- Michael Jackson may be known for moonwalking, but Charlie Duke actually walked on the moon.  The Apollo 16 pilot spoke about his past and the future of space exploration Wednesday morning at Microsoft's Irving location--and he might not be finished with visiting space if a new endeavor finds some funding.

Back to Space is an initiative to preserve the legacy of space exploration and promote its future, incorporating a push for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.  Danielle Roosa, whose grandfathers both worked for NASA's Apollo programs with one, Stuart, piloting the Apollo 14 mission, founded Back to Space and is shopping a proposed documentary/reality-TV series which would show some of the Apollo astronauts teaming up with a private company and youth STEM competition teams mentored by celebrities in STEM fields to design a new commercial space-visitation vessel--and then go up in it!

"It's not only educational, it's a passing of the torch for space exploration," says Roosa, who has sent up a Go Fund Me account if you're interested in chipping in.  "We're going to combine the past efforts of the Apollo program and link that up to the future of space exploration."

Duke, despite being 82 years old, says he's still in shape for space travel and would love to revisit some of the sights he saw in 1972.

"It's incredible views from out there."

He's also eager to promote the STEM education part of his new mission, taking time to answer several kids' questions during the Microsoft event.  While technology advancements have made it easier than ever to access whatever information you want, young students still need a push in the right direction to take full advantage of it.

"My cell phone has 800,000 times the memory of our Apollo computer," marvels Duke.  "Technology can give you a way to get inspired, but you really need to be challenged to do it."