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Lot #7197
Apollo 16 Lunar Surface-Used Moon Rock Scoop - From the Personal Collection of Charlie Duke

Moon rock scoop used extensively during the Apollo 16 mission's lunar surface operations, directly from the collection of LMP Charlie Duke

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Estimate: $750000+
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UPDATE: As part of this lot, Apollo 16 Moonwalker Charlie Duke has agreed to participate in a recorded Zoom call with the winning bidder.


Moon rock scoop used extensively during the Apollo 16 mission's lunar surface operations, directly from the collection of LMP Charlie Duke

Remarkable flown lunar soil scoop carried to the moon during the Apollo 16 mission and used extensively on the lunar surface by LMP Charlie Duke and CDR John Young during their three extravehicular activities (EVAs). This scoop played an essential role in the success of their mission, as they collected 95.8 kilograms (211 lbs) of lunar samples for return to Earth—including 'Big Muley,' an 11.7 kg (26 lb) specimen and the largest moon rock collected throughout the entire Apollo program. Duke relied on this scoop to support himself while collecting 'Big Muley,' as seen in footage taken during Apollo 16 and described in his own words: "I had to pick up a rock that was probably the size of a watermelon, and I could not pick it up with one hand. So I put the shovel down and leaned towards it, and rolled this rock up my side with my right hand, and was able to roll it up my leg and cradle it like a little baby, and take it back to the Lunar Module." The scoop was also used to collect a rare 'permanently shadowed sample' from beneath a large boulder called 'Shadow Rock,' along with dozens of fine-grained lunar soil samples.

The scoop (with attached pole segment) measures 13.75? x 4.5? x 2?, and is marked as "P/N SEB39107047-302, S/N 1005." Two large, spring-loaded buttons enable the scoop's head to rotate into positions at 180°, 45°, and 90°, allowing for ergonomic digging, scooping, and scraping. Abrasions on the scoop's blade likely occurred from lunar sample collection. Though listed on the Apollo 16 stowage list as 'SEB 39107047-302, Scoop, Large Adjustable,' the piece was generally referred to as a 'shovel' by the astronauts during the mission—they refer to the 'shovel' some fifty times in the Apollo 16 air-to-ground transcript.

The scoop is extremely well documented in video footage from the Apollo 16 EVAs. They first put it to work during EVA-1 at Plum Crater, all documented on video: Duke collects lunar soil with the shovel, pours it into a bag that Young holds open, and Young loads it into the Sample Collection Bag (SCB), worn by Duke on the right side of his Portable Life Support System (PLSS). Young says: 'Charlie, you're gonna fall down here with all these rocks.' Duke, laughing, replies: 'No. I'll give you the shovel in just a minute when I fill up, and we'll swap.' Duke goes on: 'This shovel is a great tool, I'll tell you.' Young replies in hearty agreement: 'Dadgum.'

It also appears in numerous photographs from the mission: most famously in the image of Charlie Duke standing on the rim of Plum Crater, the scoop plunged into the lunar soil beside him. Few lunar landing relics are as well-used or well-documented as this moon rock scoop: having found it so useful during the mission, Duke chose to retain it as a souvenir. To his knowledge, only one other lunar scoop (from Apollo 14) was returned from the successful Apollo lunar landing missions; the others were left behind on the moon (as was the handle extension for this scoop), chiefly as a weight-saving measure for the return flight.

Accompanied by a detailed letter of provenance signed by Charlie Duke, in small part: "I certify that this Shovel Serial number 1005 and Part Number SEB39107047-302, was one of the geology tools used by the crew of Apollo 16 during our three days stay on the Lunar Surface at the Descartes Highlands. It was used as a shovel to collect lunar dust and rock samples on the moon's surface and as a trenching tool to dig trenches in the lunar surface so that we could collect sub surface samples…During our 72 hours on the moon, we used this shovel and other tools to collect over 200 pounds of rock and soil samples…The samples from the Descartes Highlands were unique among the lunar samples returned. This shovel has been in my possession since we returned from the moon." Also includes a photocopy of the the final Apollo Stowage List (ASL), listing "SEB 39107047-302, Scoop, Large Adjustable" as equipment stowed onboard the Lunar Module.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Space Exploration and Aviation
  • Dates: #677 - Ended October 19, 2023