By default, being an astronaut is a dangerous profession. Groups like NASA always put safety at the forefront of their various off-world missions, but accidents happen when you break new ground into space.
As the hype builds on the 50th anniversary of the very first Apollo moon landing, everyone is taking a look back at the incredible missions, including some of the astronauts who spent time on the moon's surface.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Apollo reminds 16 astronaut Charlie Duke of one of the more demanding moments of his brief stay on the moon. An unlucky thumb put Duke's life in jeopardy at the worst possible moment, and he ultimately had only guilt in himself.
The story begins with Duke and Mission Commissioner John Young, who have moments left on the moon's surface before retiring to the moon module. Duke decided not to waste the precious minutes on another world, but decided to get involved in what he called "the Moon Olympics" that performed feat that would be impossible on earth.
Duke, admitting he "rides around," did his best to perform a high jump and launched several feet from the moon's surface thanks to the dramatically reduced gravity. The weight of his dress and life support system attached to the back proved too much to handle, and he crashed on his back – and the vital backpack systems – at a potentially dangerous angle.
"The backpack weighed as much as I did. So I went backwards," Duke explained. "It is a fiberglass shell and it contained all your life support. If it broke, I was dead."
Finally, Young helped Duke to his feet, and the shaken astronaut spent the next few seconds listening carefully to see if he had broken any of the pumps or other mechanisms that collapsed inside the backpack to keep him alive. He did not hear anything out of the ordinary and no hoax that would indicate a tear in his garment, but he made sure to be grounded for his remaining moments on the moon.
"I learned a lesson," Duke said. "Never do anything in the room that you haven't practiced. And we hadn't practiced the high jump."