Deke Slayton: Jim, we've got a problem. I got some blood work back from the lab. Charlie Duke has the measles.

Jim Lovell: [Unconcerned] So we need a new back-up.

Deke Slayton: You've all been exposed to it.

Jim Lovell: Oh, I've had the measles.

Deke Slayton: Ken Mattingly hasn't.

The above scene from the movie Apollo 13 claims that Charlie Duke had a positive blood test for measles. Did he actually get sick? The IMDB FAQ page for the movie claims

The movie gives the impression that the Lunar-Module-to-Command-Module reverse power transfer and subsequent power-up sequence are masterminded by Ken Mattingly. The Ken Mattingly character as portrayed in the movie is in fact a composite character representing a team of people including Charlie Duke.

which suggests that he was healthy enough to help out. Of course, we know that Ken Mattingly was unaffected.


1 Answer 1


Yes - according to an oral history Duke gave at NASA, he did indeed contract the measles:

So about, I guess, 2 weeks or 3 weeks before flight, our son Tom was (let’s see now, that would be 1970)—he was 3. And he had a little friend named Paul House and—who was the son of some good friends of ours down in Houston. An architect. And so we were off for the weekend with the Houses. And sure enough, we came back a week later and Suzanne House called and said, “Paul has got the measles.” I said, “Oh Lord.” And anyway, I caught the measles from Paul, this little 3 year old. And so I’m in—and I’m down there training in all this time, and then, so I break out with the measles down there and, of course, go to the doctor because I’m pretty sick. And they get all excited, of course. (I forgot who the flight surgeon was down there.) But anyway, he gets all excited and starts testing everybody, you know, a couple of weeks before the flight. And maybe it was 10 days before. Well, everybody had had the measles except for Mattingly. So [James A.] Lovell [Jr.] and Haise were immune, but Mattingly wasn’t. So there was the big debate, you know: “What are we going to do?” And so finally the decision was made, “Take Mattingly off. Put in Jack Swigert.” And they could launch if they thought they were able to do that.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Space. Great answer! $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Nov 5, 2018 at 23:43

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