I find something incredibly profound about the image of a family snapshot lying on the surface of the moon. The American astronaut Charlie Duke, who was part of the 1972 Apollo 16 team with John Young, placed a small family photograph he had carried with him in his space suit on the lunar surface and rephotographed it with his Hasselblad camera. The photograph shows Charlie and his wife Dorothy with their two sons, Charles and Thomas, and is wrapped in a plastic envelope. Charlie Duke’s bootprint is right next to it. Unless it’s been hit by a meteor both the photograph and the bootprint are still there today, and are likely to remain there for hundreds of years.
There’s something incredibly symbolic about this image. Man’s need to explore new worlds and also to leave this clue as to who these explorers were, what they looked like and where they came from.
Photograph of astronaut Charles Duke’s family left on Descartes Highlands (Apollo 16, April 1972), Photograph by Charles Duke (American Natural History Museum)
Steve Pyke has worked for many of the world’s leading magazines, and published eight books which consider a variety of subjects (film directors, philosophers, cyberpunks, astronauts, holocaust survivors, among others). He became staff photographer at The New Yorker in 2004. (Photo of Steve Pyke © Catlin.)