Published: October 1, 2010
CLEMSON -- The first research paper Patrick Johnson wrote when he entered Clemson University as a 16-year-old freshman two years ago was a treatise on electromagnetic launchers for space flight.
On Saturday, the junior physics and astronomy major will shake hands with the 10th man to walk on the moon.
Charles Moss Duke Jr., a retired Apollo astronaut and U.S. Air Force brigadier general, will deliver Johnson a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) during Clemson's homecoming football game against Miami Saturday.
Established in 1984 by the six surviving astronauts of America's original Mercury program, the scholarship is given to students "who exhibit motivation, imagination and exceptional performance in the science or engineering field of their major." More than 80 astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle programs support the foundation, which has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships to help the United States “retain its world leadership in science and technology.”
Johnson is the first Clemson student to earn the scholarship. Only 20 universities have been selected to nominate students for the Astronaut Foundation scholarships.
"It was immediately apparent from his questions and comments in class that Patrick is an unusually quick and deep thinker about physical and scientific issues," said Mark Leising, a Clemson physics professor who taught Johnson in his first semester. "He is an outstanding physicist and a capable, self-taught engineer at a very young age. I expect great things from him."
A native of the island of Nevis in the West Indies, Johnson was valedictorian of his high school class, has been on the President's List throughout his Clemson career and was voted the outstanding sophomore in physics and astronomy.
Duke was among 19 new astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. After serving as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 13, he was named lunar module pilot for Apollo 16, along with mission commander John Young and command module pilot T.K. Mattingly. They launched on April 16, 1972, and reached the moon three days later.
While Mattingly orbited the moon in the command ship "Casper," Duke piloted the lunar lander "Orion" to land on the Cayley Plain in the Descartes highlands of the moon. Duke and Young drove a lunar rover 16 miles and collected 213 pounds of lunar rock and soil during the mission.
Duke retired from NASA In 1975 to enter private business. He is a president of Charlie Duke Enterprises Inc., and is an active speaker and Christian lay witness. He serves on the board of directors of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and is a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997.